Adrian Peterson and Whipping: A Tradition That Goes Back To Slavery For Black Children

Livermore215This is not a post about corporal punishment although it could be. However, with all the buzz going on about Adrian Peterson being charged with reckless and negligent injury after whipping his 4-year-old son with a “switch” that left severe welts and broken skin on the child’s legs, it had me thinking about why do so many Black parents whip their children.

To be a little technical, there is a difference between a spanking (usually done with an open hand), a beating (usually done with a belt), a paddling (usually done with a wooden paddle) and a whipping (usually done with a small branch or twig). These are all forms of corporal punishment, but we are focusing on whipping since that is what Adrian Peterson is facing abuse charges for.

Parents of many different races, culture and ethnicities whip their children, but as a Black man I was really curious to why do Black parents whip their children since to me, even the term “whip” reminds me of the history of slavery when slaves would get whipped by their slave masters. Seeing welts on a child’s legs, back or arms are subtle reminders of much worse whippings inflicted on those slaves.

So why then would a Black parent choose to whip their child?

I know this is a hot debate and many people believe that whippings keep children in line. Many people will say they are successful and not in jail today because their parents whipped them. I also know that many people are in jail or are troubled individuals not necessarily because of being whipped, but whipping didn’t seem to have the desired behavior modification it was supposed to and may have had adverse effects.

Some of the most violent and aggressive teens I have worked with were whipped regularly. Not whipping a child in some people’s views may make the child spoiled, but I have never seen any real evidence that not whipping a child is more likely to make that child more physically aggressive later in life.

Each child is different and while one child may respond positively to whippings, another may become more violent, hostile, fearful and detached from their parents. I’m not shying away from punishment. There are a number of different nonviolent ways to punish a child.

I personally don’t believe in whippings. Growing up I may have been whipped two or three times, but I was never whipped as a default form of punishment, therefore I was never afraid of whippings. I was more motivated by not disappointing my parents and by rewards for good behavior, than punishment for bad behavior. I know that each child is different so I am not debating that.

However, I am here to educate. What many Black parents don’t know is that whipping our children is a direct syndrome of slavery.

An old classic picture of a slave showing healed scars from multiple whippings.
An old classic picture of a slave showing healed scars from multiple whippings.
Injuries left on Adrian Peterson 4-year-old son after the whipping that has him facing charges.
Injuries left on Adrian Peterson 4-year-old son after the whipping that has him facing charges.

Black people were unfortunately treated like beasts of the fields and whipped to discourage undesired behaviors. Black slaves were also used to whip and punish other Black slaves as a form of emotional and psychological warfare. Black slaves would be so afraid of the slave masters whipping their children for inappropriate behavior that they often would whip them first, hoping to save them from a much more severe whipping from the slave master.

This violent model became the only form of discipline that the Black slaves had to follow and therefore it was handed down throughout history.

During slavery, Black children had to learn very quickly the do’s and don’ts of being a slave on the plantation, or they would be beat severely or even killed by Whites, so Black parents whipped their own children to prevent this.

After slavery, the tradition continued. Blacks were usually punished more severely for committing social infractions than whites by teachers, people on the street, police and courts. Blacks were more likely to be beaten, thrown in jail or even lynched for minor transgressions so Black parents would punish their children severely through whippings in order to keep them from being punished by White society.

This was not down out of malice (although many parents have whipped their children out of anger), but out of love. The Black community felt a strong need to use corporeal punishment in order to keep their children from suffering potentially worst punishment from White society. Adrian Peterson was no doubt doing what was done to him by his mother and grandmother, and what was done to them by their parents, all the way back to slavery. He was doing what he thought would teach his son to stay out of trouble.

A lot of people will disagree with me about corporal punishment and I do believe that for Black people it served its purpose back in the day, but times are different. It’s time that we evolve and start looking for nonviolent ways to correct bad behavior.

There is enough violence in this world that we don’t have to subject our children to it in their own homes on a regularly basis. Stopping the violence in our communities is much more complicated if we don’t stop the violence in our own homes.

For more information, check out the article Punishment or Child Abuse?

3 thoughts on “Adrian Peterson and Whipping: A Tradition That Goes Back To Slavery For Black Children

  1. I understand the history behind the abuse and know it is still a practice today, even among some educated parents. People need to learn the negative effects of abuse to be swayed in the direction of change. When you take away parents tools (whippings and abuse) then they must be presented with replacement tools such as education (parenting classes) or Parents Anonymous Support Groups. Parents Anonymous Groups are 100% FREE of any charge, are nonjudgmental, confidential and the groups are autonomous which means the groups belong to the members who attend and can be tailored to their needs. Most groups provide childcare for parents during the meetings. Parents do not even have to use their real names if they want.

    Parents run the meetings and take turns to talk. They give and get support with any issue they are dealing with on any given week. Nobody forces parents to say or do anything; it is a safe place for them to vent, ask opinions and to get healthy, more effective parenting information. Parents can attend for as long as they need or want to.

    Parents Anonymous’ National
    http://parentsanonymous.org/

    There is an online meeting for parents that is run by Parents Anonymous of New Jersey but that may not fit all the needs of parents who feel they do not type or spell well enough. The facilitator of this group is also available between meetings for support.

    PA NJ Online Group
    http://panjonlinegroup.org/

    I am against corporal punishment of any kind. Learning does not manifest under physical violence; parents must not hit children in any way. Parenting is easier with support and Parents Anonymous has helped millions of parents, they are culturally responsive and it is completely free of any cost to a parent. You can’t get better than that.

  2. OMG! I am so pissed off right now. I just wrote a very long comment on your post and right in the middle of typing the very last word, it all just vanished. Sigh…………….. I will try again, but I thought what I had to say was very good and important and it’s just gone.
    For starter’s I cannot even believe that one human being ever treated another human being the way slaves were treated. Seriously? Because of a person’s color of skin, someone, somewhere decided it would be okay to treat people the way slaves were treated because of the color of their skin. Even to make them slaves! Sickens me. It really, really does. God created each and every one of us. He made us all different, yes. Can you imagine if we were all the same? How boring would that be? We all have beating hearts, feelings and emotions and are all the same on the inside. My kids were taught from a very young age that, although we may look different, we’re all the same on the inside. No race is or should be superior over another. Sick, sick, sick! I can’t even fathom what it must have been like to be a slave, or to even be an African American. My kids knew right from the beginning that we are not racists and should I ever hear anything of the sort come out of their mouths there would be consequences. I thank God every day that I was born to parents that didn’t beat or hit me, therefore, I didn’t beat or hit my own kids, of which I have 4. Now, back in the day, when I was a kid, corporal punishment was “okay.” It was even used in the schools. Every teacher and the principal all had a wooden paddle hanging right on the wall for all to see, and many times a child was taken out of the classroom and into the hall and hit repeatedly with this wooden paddle. Being hit only teaches kids that it’s okay to hit. This, of course, is my opinion only, and I respect the opinions of other’s, as well. Kids these days just are not as respectful as we were when we were kids. They just aren’t. I do remember hearing, “I’m going to get a switch off the tree” a time or two, but we just did what we were told, it was that simple. I was divorced when my children were all still in grade school the youngest in first grade. A single mother trying to raise 4 kids is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I did not hit or beat my kids. I think most teenager’s are just disrespectful. Just a part of growing up, thinking they already know everything there is to learn about the world and are just trying to become their own persons. Not saying it’s right, and I didn’t allow my kids to be disrespectful. There were consequences, of which did not involve hitting or beating. There were groundings, talks, and taking away their favorite toy or electronic for a certain amount of time,missing a practice or game of whatever sport they were playing at the time, depending on the degree of their disrespectfulness. This worked for me and my kids. I was a single mother, we did not have a lot of money, and we barely made it, but we did because I worked my ass off to do what I needed to do to take care of my kids. I taught them respect by treating them with respect. Showing them what it meant to be respectful. They weren’t hit or beat and they all 4 turned out just fine. I couldn’t be more proud of them. All four of them are in college, now. I am on disability and most definitely do not have any money to hep my kids with college. I wish that were different, but I’ve been taught through therapy that it’s not my responsibility to do that. They all took care of everything, on their own, figuring out what they needed to do to get themselves into school. I am a bit pissed at our educational system because it feels like education beyond high school is for the rich only. My other comment, that vanished, was a much better comment, but I can’t remember everything. I did veer off the path of the subject at hand, but I thought it was all relevant. Thank you so much for sharing this very important post. I think people should be better educated about this matter. There are always going to be those kids that just never get it. I think mental illness plays a big part in this and many children grow up with mental illnesses that go undiagnosed. There is nothing to be ashamed of being mentally ill. It’s no different than a problem with any other part of the body. A chemical imbalance in the brain is something that cannot be helped. You have no control over what physical or mental illnesses you may be born with. It’s the stigma attached to mental illness that needs to be unattached. People need to be better educated on mental health, as well. Just because a person is mentally ill, does not mean they are “bad” or “crazy.” Education is the answer to all of this, in my opinion. I’m going to end this right here before it vanishes, again. Thanks again for sharing this very important post. We haven’t spoken for a long time, but I finally am taking the time to read other’s blogs today. I’ve been going through a lot, lately. I’ve had a lot to deal with. Take care, my friend. Have a great day. 🙂

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