By now, we’ve all heard the reports about Atlanta Megachurch Pastor Creflo Dollar beating his daughter with a shoe and choking her. I should probably say alleged reports, but since the police report corroborates that story – it’s the one I’m going with for now. You’ve also probably seen how once again, this incident has shown the divide between the Black community and how we respond to domestic violence. To wit, The Crunk Feminist Collective recently wrote:
What would it mean for us to recognize that when we refuse to believe the testimony of other Black women and girls, it makes our own witness “for the Lord,” before the law, and before anyone else we need to believe us less credible?
Yet, I witnessed Black women coming out in full support of the “man of God” in droves because…
“We weren’t there.”
“We don’t know what happened in that house…”
“We don’t know what she did or said to provoke him…”
[What is this? Chris Brown and RiRi 2.0? (Let me leave that alone.)]
And while many fruitful discussions have come about concerning what our collective reactions mean for the treatment of Black women, I’d like to take a different approach all together and discuss what continued violence in the home does to the children that will eventually grow up to be adults in our neighborhoods.
While discussing the recent events with different people in my life over the past couple days, from besties over email to my parents over the phone, one idea kept coming back to me – almost screaming to be written: When are we going to understand that when we reinforce ideas with violence in the home, we make it easier for our children to feel like they should reinforce ideas with violence outside of the home?
Some of you are probably looking at your screen as if I’m crazy right now, but stop for a second before you get defensive and try to hit me with responses like, “until you’ve raised a teenager, you won’t understand.” I will address that point first, before I go further. No, I do not have kids right now. I am a proud auntie (teetee or tia, to be exact) and godmother (she calls me Nanny), but there are no kids that permanently reside in my home.
I have however been a teenager and obviously grew up around teenagers, and one thing I learned from that experience is that my parents, in all their wisdom to punish creatively and not by their fists
or shoes, provided me with a much greater understanding of why what I did was wrong than beating me ever could.
Did we get into arguments? Of course. That’s what happens when young adults and adults begin to live under the same roof. Did I always think they were fair? Of course not – no teenager does. But I never feared them. I didn’t have to fear them, because I respected them, and that respect caused me to not want to ever disappoint them with my actions or words.
But many of our children do fear their parents. They’re growing up, learning by practice, that the best way to get your point across to someone is to raise your hand. How can we then expect them not to carry those same practices into their lives outside of the home? Do we not see the possible correlation to the violence in our homes and the violence in our neighborhoods? For if it’s true (and it is) that a large number of children who see abuse in their home will either abuse or accept abuse in their homes as adults, why would we assume that same acceptance and repetition would not manifest itself in other areas of their lives?
Let’s be clear – our children learn to act and do things as we teach them to in the home. If we know that to be true, at what point do we collectively say enough is enough? My parents did it. They decided that beating their children into submission was not the route they wanted to take. And I thank them for that every day; not just because my butt was never black and blue, but because they gave me the opportunity to learn by example and not through intimidation. I think if more people could say the same thing, we might see a dramatic change in the thought process of many folks who believe laying hands on someone is their first and sometimes only option to be heard.
And even if a dramatic change doesn’t happen in the actions of our community, at least there might be less people trying to come up with justifications for a man putting his hands around his child’s neck. That might just be enough change for me for the moment.