Thoughts on Whuppins

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by Ernie McCray
I just read a piece, "A Call to Reject Corporal Punishment As Part of Black Culture," on Facebook. There was a picture of Adrian Peterson, the great running back with the Minnesota Vikings, who has been charged with abusing his four year old son with a tree part. A responder argues that such punishment is not part of African American culture, but a part of a global culture.

There could be all kinds of pros and cons in debating minds for such an argument but for this moment in time, I'd say we black folks need to evaluate our thoughts on "whuppins."

I don't know how many times I've heard black comics, talking about how when they misbehaved as a child, they'd get a whuppin'. They'd say something like "Remember how Big Mama would not only whup your ass, she'd make you go get the switch off the tree for the ass whuppin'?" And black people in the audience would be bent over "lol-ing" all over the auditorium, in recognition of such beatings.

Adrian Peterson, defending himself, said "I was just doing what was done to me. Look how I turned out." And I'm thinking "Yeah, look how you turned out. You grew up into a physical specimen of a man who bangs into and stiff arms and runs over and around professional football players who weigh 200 to 300 plus pounds - a man who whips his son, leaving him with welts and bleeding cuts."

What kind of mischief can a four year old get into that warrants a punishment like that? What in his development as a human being did he exaggerate? Did he want to try too many "new experiences" as four year olds are wont to do? Did he throw in a curse word into his vocabulary as he expands his language acquisition daily? Did he not stop playing when told to as four year olds can play non-stop? Did his great curiosity and creative imagination go too far? Did he get out of hand playing with other children, maybe not showing sympathy for someone he might have hurt? Did he use his imagination in creative play and model not so nice behavior for his age that he had seen someone else do?

Oh, some traditions need to die. Let me over simplify a bit: In slavery and the Jim Crow days many black parents felt a deep need to make their children behave, knowing that misbehavior could be cause for them being hung. There wasn't much thought of sitting down and taking time to explain things to their children or telling them they couldn't play with their toys for fifteen minutes. There was cotton to be picked. Fields to be hoed. With no excuses and no exceptions whatsoever.

But this is the 21st Century. We need to know that you don't have to spank somebody's behind to keep them in line. Children have to be taught and guided and have good behavior modeled for them - over and over and over and over again, the whole time they're under their parents' roof... It's, perhaps, the hardest part of parenting, the "blue collar" work in the relationship between a father or a mother and their child.

Children will perpetuate the lessons they learned growing up, in the future. So we can't ever expect a better world if we don't treat them with love and respect. If we don't stop whuppin' them.