Fri | Sep 21, 2018

Child beating a legacy from slavery

Published:Saturday | February 21, 2015 | 12:00 AM

I think Jamaicans and the minister of education, in light of his recent comments regarding corporal punishment, need to rethink our fervent love and defence of beating our children.

I share with readers the observations of one of our foremost sociologists, Orlando Patterson, regarding the context in which our practice of beating our children developed, from page 40-41 of Rituals of Blood, Consequences of Two Centuries of American Slavery:

"... Slave children who, in addition to being disciplined by sadistic Euro-Americans, were often horribly whipped by their parents in much the same way that the parents themselves were disciplined by those in charge of them.

Tragically, the inherently violent nature of slavery resulted in the most vulnerable being the most punished ... . The violence and brutality that whites imposed on their slaves undoubtedly influenced the ways in which the bondsmen and bondswomen reared their own children.

The ability to beat someone, to hold that kind of physical control over another human, was a sadistic expression of power that blacks learned repeatedly from their interaction with and observation of white authority figures.

The beatings were meant to show just who was in control and as such could be seen as a pathetic defiance of Euro-American authority ... .

This chain of violence, according to the testimony of slaves, extended right down the pecking order to the children themselves, who, in their games with each other, often simulated and sometimes performed the whipping of playmates."

I see the ghosts of this historical reality in everyday Jamaican child beating.

Parents beat in anger and often the severity of the beating corresponds to the depth of the parent's anger. The majority of Jamaican beating parents lose control when they beat and they do experience that whiff of sadistic control that wielding a belt or other weapon provides.

I do not support beating our children, and if we look at the violent and aggressive character of our society, we have to admit, it is not working.

The beating style of child-rearing was what we learned under slavery. Now that we are free, we can look at alternatives to beating. The minister of education, of all people, should be leading the charge to look at effective alternatives instead of defending practices learned under slavery.