Although a number of prestigious scholars and researchers have weighed in on the negative effects of
corporal punishment, there is a dearth of research as it relates to differences in childrearing
styles in African-American families versus European-American families. The histories of our family dynamics are dissimilar
as is our overall history in this country. African-Americans began our presence in this country as chattel slaves with little
if any family structure. This was done purposefully and with the desire on the part of slaveholders to keep slaves from developing
any bonds of affection within a family group, since the vicissitudes of slavery mandated the separating and reselling of slaves
at the owners whim, for profit or to keep control over the slaves under their dominion.
After emancipation, the masses of newly freed slaves began the arduous transition
to freedom, which embodied such endeavors as the creation of and nurturance of family units. African-Americans were suddenly
personally responsible for the safety and security of their families. They found themselves having to learn to adapt to their
circumstances very quickly in order to survive the new challenges of freedom. The survival modality of African-Americans was
vastly different from White Americans from that time until this day. In order to survive and thrive in this country we have
had to learn to present a "social face" all the while as we enjoyed the peace and comfort inside our homes. Historically,
we raised children to be aware that their public behavior had consequences for the child personally, and for the family collectively.
One remembers the tragic life of Emmett Till and the chaos that came to bear on his extended family for so slight an indiscretion
as whistling at a White woman. His death became a cautionary tale for countless black families to socialize their children
to the realities of living in a white world.
"So what does all this have to do with corporal punishment", you might ask. The answer lies in the
fact that to protect a black child in America, he or she must by necessity be disciplined differently than a white child.
This is because the consequences for misbehavior can prove deadly for a black child, while the same behavior exhibited by
a white child would probably elicit more empathy and leeway from authority figures. Incarceration statistics bear out the
fact that our children and young adults receive fewer second chances than do white children. It becomes a matter of necessity
for a black parent to be able to use a broad repertoire of discipline approaches in order to socialize a black child to survive
and thrive in this society. One of those discipline options should be corporal punishment.
There is no doubt that the task of parenting becomes more difficult with each succeeding generation.
Many parents are busier than ever trying to earn a living and sometimes leave the child to their own devices for much of the
day when they are away from school. Most schools no longer practice corporal punishment and the same may be true for most
households. In our litigious society, there is a chilling effect felt by parents who might consider spanking their children.
Some children are devious enough to threaten to turn their parents in to authorities if they are
spanked. But a parent should never abdicate their role as a disciplinarian solely for expediency. Moreover, in our Judeo-Christian
based culture, we still place value on what the Bible says:" Spare the rod and spoil the child." Spanking doesn’t have
to equate with a severe whipping. A responsible, thoughtful parent would be one who has been actively engaged in the rearing
of a child since birth. A responsible parent would be a parent who is in control of his or her emotions and has proper personal
anger management skills. A responsible parent would be a parent who employed a range of punishments, tailored to fit the infraction. In some cases "time out" might work. In other cases taking away a privilege might work. In
some cases a smack on the hand might prove sufficient. All options should be on the table.
When we consider the formidable task of parenting, the irrefutable, overarching
consideration must concern how we bring the next generation to a position of strength . When we as parents provide examples
of reward and punishment towards our children which are fair and balanced, our children are then better equipped to overcome
many of the vicissitudes life has to offer.