Why Whupping Children Won’t Save Black America’

Race and Politics

by: Sean Yoes Baltimore AFRO Editor
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Recently I participated in the Holistic Parenting and Education Summit, an event organized by Kenyatta Macon-Moon, the founder of the Nsoroma Academy of Holistic Thought, Baltimore’s only African centered school.

The event, at New Shiloh Baptist Church’s Family Life Center in West Baltimore, featured presentations and education workshops by Macon-Moon, my good brothers Changa Bell, filmmaker and founder of the Black Male Yoga Initiative and Bobby Marvin Holmes, author, filmmaker, {AFRO} contributor and founder of Son of a Dream, among others. There was a beautiful, vibrant energy in the room, maybe the most truly child friendly “education summit” I’ve ever been a part of; children, from toddlers to pre-teens ran freely, laughing, playing tag and having unadulterated fun with impunity.

Dr. Stacey Patton, the event’s special guest, who I interviewed at the end of the afternoon on stage, reveled in the joyous atmosphere as she entered the room. “This is like Black heaven,” she said.

Sean Yoes (Courtesy Photo)

An award-winning journalist, Dr. Patton is also assistant professor of multimedia journalism at Morgan State University, a child advocate and author of the book “Spare the Kids: Why Whupping Children Won’t Save Black America.” For Patton, an adoptee, child abuse survivor and former foster youth, childhood was anything but “Black heaven.”

“She was a cross between Joan Crawford, “Mommy Dearest”…and Sybil Dorsett’s mother (the abusive mother of the character from the book and movie, “Sybil,” the story of a woman with 16 distinctive personalities), in a Black body, that was my adoptive mother,” Patton said.

The theme of her book is vastly more complicated than spanking vs. not spanking.  “It is about Black children and freedom. It is also a book about Black America and our pain. It is an examination of history, racism, trauma, crime and policing, media, child welfare policy, science and medicine, popular culture, religion, humor, schooling sexuality and who gets to be a child in America,” Patton writes.

But, at its foundation, Patton digs up the roots of Black people disciplining our children by beating them.

“How did we go from being a West African people who once believed that our children were gods, that they were mystical, that they were magical, that they were reincarnated ancestors…people who never struck children or coerced them, to a people who now believe that the only way to nurture our children through childhood into productive adults is to process their bodies through violence,” Patton said.

“I hear Black parents say to me all the time, `If I don’t beat my kid, then the police will kill them, or they’ll end up in prison.’ Well, how’s that working for us? If whipping Black children was so effective at keeping Black people out of prison, then why do we have national conversations on mass incarceration and police brutality? It’s (beating children) not working.”

During our conversation, Patton also spoke about the role of White supremacy in informing parental choices in raising children, Black and White.

“When you look at…American history, regardless of who is in office, White supremacy has oriented Black people to hate each other and taught us to weaponize ourselves against our children,” Patton said. “Because White supremacy is about destroying our children, period, irrespective of their race. So, that they grow up to underwrite the logics and horrors of racism. So, White children have to be destroyed so that they grow up to lack empathy, a sense of racial justice…no humanity.”

At the end of our talk, a parent in the audience asked Patton about “shifting the paradigm” away from spanking.

“It takes some humility that Black people aren’t used to practicing with their children…to say, `I know that…in the past this is what I’ve done…this is how I was brought up. But, I want us as a family to try and do something different.’ And it’s going to be difficult,” Patton said. “But, it’s the most powerful thing that your children will be able to watch you go through and take that journey with you, to take partnership. It never diminishes your soul to say, `I apologize, that I hurt you and I’m going to do better.’ It’s like all these psychological chains begin to break in that particular moment.”

Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore Editor. Please join him Oct. 9 for the launch of, The AFRO First Edition w/Sean Yoes, at afro.com.

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