The Vicious Cycle of Child Abuse In The Black Community

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Let me start by letting you all know that I consider myself a black woman; therefore, I believe I qualify as a member of the so-called “black community.” That said, I believe the black community is as diverse as saying “the American community”, but I digress.  This past weekend, I had the privilege of being a guest caller on the radio show Cole And The Cure.  This show has a large Black American audience, and is based in Tampa, FL.  While some people might argue if Tampa counts as “the deep south”, the callers certainly considered themselves southern.

The show focused on the issue of Child Abuse.  Mr. Cole, the host, called me to participate after reading my blog from last week on Adrian Peterson.  Before addressing the audience, I had a chance to listen to many callers’ views on spanking.  I have to admit, I was shocked and appalled at what I was hearing.   Several callers claimed that “whooping” a child was just a part of black culture, and blamed police for intervening in the way Peterson decided to “discipline” his child.  Others claimed that while Peterson shouldn’t have left a mark, they believed it was ok to beat their child.  Even the co-host admitted that when she first heard the story she believed that Peterson was just “handling his business” as a parent.

Out of all the callers, however, I was most concerned when a woman explained her belief that you should beat your children young, because they were too young to understand reason.  She went on to say that since police officers beat prisoners, she is just getting her children ready for the real world by hitting them when they “step out of line.” So after the show, I went straight to my computer and jotted down some take away thoughts about the state of the black community:

Are are raising our children to be prisoners?

 Do people actually think that because prison guards use physical punishment, using this same type of behavior on your child will stop them from becoming a prisoner?   I firmly believe that if you hit your child in an attempt to curb violence, you are going to likely spur the very thing you are claiming to be trying to stop.

When I was a teacher in California, I was told during one of the State training sessions that the State of California used third grade writing assessments to project how many prisons the State would need to build in the future.  Now I won’t get into the obvious parallels they were making between the education of third graders and prison projects; however, the debate on child discipline vs. abuse had me thinking about this statistic.  Was there something to this?  Not only was the State making a judgement on children ending up in prison, many parents were raising their children as if it was a forgone conclusion.

The Impact Of Violence At A Young Age:  

One of the most disturbing things about the radio show was the common believe that people should hit their children as a form of discipline when they are “too young to understand reason.”  This was shockingly illogical to me.  Imagine being a child who is not yet verbal, and you hit or bite someone.  In response, because you are too young to be reasoned with, your parent decides to hit you with a switch.

(Let’s take a moment of contemplative silence to think about the irony here…)

Do you really think that this child, after being smacked, is going to “learn his lesson”?  This poor kid is likely to be intensely confused by the fact that you were angry about him hitting someone, and your response was hitting him.  By showing your child this odd form of discipline, or child abuse as I would call it, you have effectively taught your child that when you are upset – the logical response is to hit.

Psychological research shows that a child learns to form attachments before the age of five.  If your form of discipline involves intentionally inflicting pain on your child, I would like to challenge you to think about the life long scars that you are forming that might not present in a physical mark.

Social Responsibility:

Another response that I heard on the radio show was this idea that “spanking my child is my business”, and “I know the difference between spanking and abuse”.  People often hear about my tragic case, and insist that the way they choose to discipline is not at the level of what happened to my son, and therefore, they don’t have to worry about it.  My response to these people is this:  While many things that happen behind your doors at night is your business, you better hope that police don’t take the stance that child abuse is not something for police to get involved in.  Many people like to believe that this issue is not impacting them, however, there are many abusive parents who hide behind the idea that their form of discipline is their business.  By propagating this crap that police should stay out of your form of discipline, you are putting children at risk of being hurt or killed.

Slavery And Child Abuse:

I anticipate that many folks will not want to hear this, but just because you were beaten…your parents were beaten…and your ancestors were beaten does not mean that you need to continue the cycle.  Charles Barkley, in all his idiotic wisdom, defended Adrian Peterson by that, “every black parent in the south” whoops their child.  Barkley went on to say,  “Every black parent in the South is gonna be in jail under those circumstances.  I think we have to be careful letting people dictate how they treat their children.”  I have news for you Charles:  There was a time when it was legal for white people to beat black people too.  I am thankful that the government stepped in, and dictated that black people have Civil Rights and should not be owned and abused as property.  If that hadn’t occurred, both you and I would be in a field picking cotton, or serving as an unpaid hand in masters’ kitchen.

 

I cannot say how my son’s father was raised, or what created the monster who killed my son Prince.  I do, however, know for sure that violence begets violence.  Until we are man and woman enough to break the cycle of violence, these terrible things will continue to happen in our society.  Many of you are likely thinking that my stance against child abuse comes from having grown up in a cushy non-abusive environment.  That is not the case.  I am the first person to stand here and say that while I was hit as a child, due to the same cultural acceptance of child abuse, I am strongly against it for my child.  My child will be raised to respect me, and not fear me.  She will be raised to understand that she is entitled to the same Civil Rights as an adult.  She will not be raised to assume that one day she will be a prisoner, and she will understand that violence has no good place in our society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ray Rice – The Child Of An Adrian Peterson

 

Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson

Almost a year ago, I wrote about a terrible tragedy - the murder of Adrian Peterson’s two-year old son.  In the past week, you would have to have been hiding under a rock not to hear about how this same man, who lost a son he never had the chance to know, was now being indicted for abusing his four year old son.  I cannot accurately describe the rage I felt when I heard this story.  I defended Peterson a year ago, and was sad for him that he never had the chance to know his child who was murdered.  Now, after seeing the graphic pictures of his four year old son’s battered little boy, I want to spit on this poor excuse for a father.

Close to home:

For those who are familiar with my story, you know that I am intimately familiar with how it feels to lose a child.  I also know the pain of learning that your child was murdered as the result of a horribly abusive incident.  I simply cannot understand how a man whose child was murdered in this violent way can justify raising his hand to another one of his children.  As I read more and more about the story, I felt as though I had entered some strange alternate reality.  I couldn’t believe how bold this man was to believe he would not have to face the law after what he did.  In case you missed it, the following text messages show Peterson’s reaction to what he did to this innocent child.

(The following are text messages he sent the child’s mother after returning the child from a visit.)

Mother: “What happened to his head?”

Peterson: “Hit his head on the Carseat.”

Mother: “How does that happen, he got a whoopin in the car.”

Peterson: “Yep.”

Mother: “Why?”

Peterson: “I felt so bad. But he did it his self.”

(The messages go on with Peterson describing how he was “disciplining” the child for cussing at a sibling.)

Mother: “What did you hit him with?”

Peterson: “Be still n take ya whooping he would have saved the scare (scar). He aight (all right)”

(Translation in the event you cannot understand Peterson’s poor use of the English language:  “If he had not tried to escape me when I was beating him up, maybe he wouldn’t have gotten a scar.  He will be alright.”)

Public Reaction:

When I heard about Peterson, I was appalled, and I regretted ever believing he would have been a good influence for any of his children.  What is equally appalling is the reactions that I have heard from people after the news that Peterson had been indicted.  People came out of the woodwork to defend child abuse.  Since Peterson used the term “discipline”, many folks believed this gave him a free pass to beat the shit out of his four year old.

Here is a sample of some of the vial things I read in response to the felony that Peterson committed against his son:

1)  “If it left bruises and welts, okay fine, charge him. I’m just waiting for the anti-spanking brigade to use this to push their parenting ideas on others. While everyone has their own ideas about punishment, I don’t think using a switch constitutes abuse.”

In what reality does beating a child with a stick NOT cause bruises and welts?  How about I have you grab a branch off of that tree so I can hit you with it, and let’s see if you still think this doesn’t constitute abuse.

I am not in the business of giving random unsolicited parenting advice (ok, maybe sometimes I do – but you all have the choice to continue reading or not).  It isn’t my business whether you choose to give your kids veggies for breakfast, sleep train a certain way, or wait until they are older for kindergarten.  That said, I will ALWAYS stand firm against child abuse because your abused child is going to turn into an adult who thinks abuse is an acceptable behavior when you are upset with someone.  Whether or not you choose to abuse your child is not a personal parenting decision.  It is something society has a right to judge and speak out against.  And yes, I am from the anti-spanking brigade.

2)  “This is insulting. Why in the hell would he be charged with anything for this? He is a parent and can discipline his children however he sees fit!!!!”

Just because people like this disguise child abuse with the term “discipline” doesn’t make it any less illegal.  Newsflash, you don’t have a right as a parent to abuse your child.  Period.

3)  “No big deal, my Mom/Dad did the same to me.”  And one of my favorite variations of this argument:

“I was spanked as a kid. I think I turned out fine. I am 23, and even to this day, my mom wouldn’t hesitate to slap me across the face.”

This quote I have seen in several different locations.  This argument is just as silly as saying, “well, it isn’t a big deal that my husband beats me…I mean, my Dad beat my Mom and she didn’t get killed.”  Wake up folks!!  Just because you were abused as a child, doesn’t mean you should continue the abuse just because it happened to you.  I also wonder what sort of respect you have for yourself, and for your mother, if you are 23 and your Mom is slapping you in the face.  Congratulations for surviving an abusive childhood, but please stop the cycle.

Alarming Parallels:

I could go on for pages with the amount of people who were defending this sorry ass human.  Wasn’t just a few weeks ago when we had to watch another football player knock out his wife in an elevator?  After the way people reacted to Peterson, it shouldn’t shock us that domestic violence has become so damn common.  So many people seem to think its ok for an adult to hit a child (which nobody would argue is a fair fight), but when a grown man beats a grown woman we wonder why she is staying in the marriage.  Why do we have such double standards when it comes to children, yet we are all appalled and confused when we see story after story about children getting murdered by their parents?

Finally, I hope that in the past month you all are able to see the parallels between these two stories.  Here you have two men for whom violence appears to be the norm.  I bet if we asked Ray Rice how he feels about Peterson’s situation, he would likely say something like, “I don’t see why it’s a big deal…I mean, my Dad and Mom made me get my own switch before they beat my ass.  I call that discipline.”  Sure Ray, and I bet you also call what happened in the elevator a love tap too right?

The Child Of A Football Player

In the past week, many of you have likely heard about the murder of Adrian Peterson’s two year old son.  Though the brutal murder of this innocent toddler should have made headlines regardless of who his father was, the fact that his father plays for the Minnesota Vikings became a center piece for the story.  At first, I wondered why the media was referring to this child as Peterson’s “secret child”.  After reading more, I learned the sad reality that Peterson didn’t even know this was his child until a couple of months before the child’s death.

Even though it appeared that Peterson had been robbed of the chance to know this little boy, some internet trolls had no problem throwing him under the bus for continuing to play football despite the news.  Before I move on to the real issue here – the child – let me just say some words in support for Adrian Peterson.  Peterson is one of the victims here.  He lost a child he never even had the chance to know (and not through fault of his own).  If he felt the need to dance on top of Mount Everest or run naked on the beach as a coping mechanism, I would have no judgement.  People grieve in all sorts of ways.  Many people choose to throw themselves into their careers in order to keep living.  This man also has two other children for whom he is financially supporting.  Keep living Adrian – it’s what your son would have wanted and it’s what your other children need.

Under The Media Frenzy:

While many of the articles I have read focus on Adrian Peterson being a football player, as if the death of his child is somehow more shocking than the thousands of other children who die after being abused, this story can serve as an example of many disturbing trends in our society.  Just weeks after my own son’s murder (at the hands of his own father), I continued to say that I hoped my son would be the last child who had to suffer in this way.  Though that was my hope, I knew that would never be the reality given the current state of affairs in America.

Adrian Peterson’s son, whom family members called “Ty”, was a happy and vibrant two-year old boy.  His mother had left him in the care of a man named Joseph Robert Patterson.  Without details about how much the mother knew about this man (or more importantly how much information the system allowed to be public information), I will refrain from judging her for the moment.  I will, however, come down harshly on a system that allowed this abuser to roam a free man long enough to kill a child.  It is now known that Patterson was indicted in June 2012 on several counts of simple assault involving an ex-girlfriend and her 3-year-old son.  He was also later charged for violating a no-contact order.  While he was sentenced to one year in jail for both of these cases, his time was suspended upon the condition that he attend domestic violence counseling.

Abusers and Deadly Plea Bargains:

In December 2010, my son’s father was arrested for violently assaulting his then 11 year old son.  To avoid a conviction and criminal record, Luc agreed to family counseling and the child was put back in the home.  Child Protective Services issued a report that the abuse was founded, however, records disappeared and Luc was allowed to go on as if this assault had never occurred.  Luc, just like Patterson, is an abusive man who prays upon women and children.  A few months of family therapy didn’t turn Luc into a loving non-abusive father, and “domestic violence counseling” clearly did nothing for Peterson either.  If Luc had served the mandatory year in jail for abusing his older son, Prince would likely still be here.  If Patterson had served the two years in jail that he was sentenced, I wouldn’t be writing about this story because little Ty would be here too.

My son, Prince McLeod Rams, and little Ty were both brutally murdered by men who shouldn’t have been free to walk amongst us.  While Prince and Ty had  different circumstances leading to how these men obtained access (Prince was forced into the custody of a killer by the courts and Ty was left with his mother’s abusive boyfriend),  the two cases have frighteningly similar roots.  Both killers found dangerous loopholes in a broken system.  Both killers had previous run ins with the law where they were able to convince psychological professionals and court officials that they could be rehabilitated and should be given another chance to behave.  As long as society remains in denial about personality disorders, more children will be at risk for deadly child abuse.  It is not possible to rehabilitate a sociopath.  My son, Ty, and all the other children who have been victims of our broken system (and those who will be victims in the future) deserve better from us – they deserve justice.

Shocking Statistics:

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services analyzed data that showed that 80 percent of the 1,570 U.S. children who died from abuse were 4 years old or younger.  In 87 percent of these cases, the perpetrators were biological parents of the victims.  The Every Child Matters education fund reports that 15,510 children are known to have died between 2001 and 2010 from child abuse related incidents.  This is about 2.5 times the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Though these statistics are shocking in and of themselves, the U.S. Government Accountability Office states that these numbers are underreported because there is no national standard for reporting.

When my son arrived at the hospital, nurses and doctors immediately called police and Child Protective Services as his injuries were consistent with child abuse.  Though every person who encountered my son in those initial hours after he arrived at the hospital was likely horrified at the scene, my son’s death went unreported for nearly a month after the incident.  Police didn’t release a press release of any sort and my son’s killer wasn’t arrested for over three months after the incident occurred.  I often wonder how many other cases where children have been murdered go completely unreported.  For months after my son’s murder, I was told that the case was “under investigation” and that authorities were not releasing the cause of my healthy little boy’s sudden death.

Ty’s story was reported because his father is a football player.  Perhaps my son’s story was reported because I am loud, and continue to scream at the top of my lungs.  Perhaps my son’s story was told because a brave reporter from The Washington Post Editorial section took a chance and reported about a case that officials seemed dead set on burying.  The sad reality, however, is all the cases that go un reported – all the children who are born into this dangerous world with no weapons to protect themselves – no Civil Rights – no voice – and no future.