By Dr. Stacey Patton
In late September the disturbing YouTube video shown above began circulating on blogs and other social media platforms with scores of people defending Devery Broox, 25, for whipping his 7-year-old mentee with a belt because he was acting up in school. Broox justified whipping the boy by intimating that he was trying to save him from the penal system.
But the irony here is that Broox found himself behind bars for child abuse after someone who saw the video online called the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The video, almost eight minutes long, begins with scrolling statistics from the Sentencing Project and the latest U.S. Census report – 1 out of 8 black men are in prison; 1 out of 3 black men born today are expected to go to prison; there are 2,500,000 black people in college, only 910,000 are black men while 827, 680 are prison or jail.
In the next scene Broox appears with a belt slung over his shoulder, flexing his muscles and interrogating the young boy as he sits on a toilet seat with a look of terror on his face.
Text appears on the screen that says “Step 1: Investigation.” Broox begins his interrogation of the child.
Then, “Step 2: The removal of SWAG.” Broox proceeds to shave the boy’s head while saying, “You want to act like a clown, I’ll send you back to school looking like a clown. After I finish whooping your ass, we gonna work out like we just came out of boot camp.”
And then, “Step 3: Beat Dat ASS!!!” Broox tells the boy to “drop your pants,” as they walk into another room. At this point the viewer can hear the boy crying, pleading and screaming as he’s being hit with the belt.
As I watched this scene play out in horror I could not contain my tears. It brought back a flood of memories from my own childhood when I was interrogated, yelled at and put down as part of the prelude to my adoptive mother’s many beating rituals. I saw myself in that little boy and I felt his fear.
My tears turned to disgust and anger. I began to hate the so-called “mentor” who can be heard yelling, “Move your motherfucking hand” as the boy screamed, “It hurts!”
Thankfully, the video was sent to the Orlando Police Department and the Department of Children and Families later discovered the identities of Broox and the boy.
Both the boy and his mother initially told investigators that scars on the boy’s body were from a bicycle accident, but a doctor reported that the scars were consistent with physical abuse with a flexible object like a belt.
The boy later told a DCF investigator that Broox had whipped him with a belt and that Broox had told him to lie to investigators so he wouldn’t be arrested. Clearly there was recognition here that there was wrongdoing on his part. Broox’s actions reminded me of my adoptive mother who coach me on what to say to the police, doctors, social workers, teachers, people at church on anybody else who asked about welts, black eyes and old scars on my body. I had to play my role in making sure my adoptive mother didn’t fall into the hands of the “racist” white social workers or police officers for beating me. Besides, all they wanted to do was break up black families and keep black people down, my adoptive mother told me.
When Broox voluntarily went to the Orlando Police headquarters, he told the cops that his references to “beating” and “whipping” the boy in the video meant physical exercise, not actually harming him. Police said Broox told them the off-camera portion of the video was “staged” and that he never hurt the boy. Broox was booked at the Orange County Jail and charged with one count of felony child abuse but has since posted bond.
Some people have cried fowl over Broox’s arrest. Some of those commenting on various sites say that he did not cross the line by whipping this child. Too many agree that it is necessary to whip black children to keep them from ending up behind bars.
But they are wrong.
It amazes me how people can’t seem to connect how this kind of violence and soul murder of black children actually helps feed our children into the child welfare system and the prisons in this country. Whipping children does not prevent them from becoming subject to the state! I’ll bet you any amount of money that if you walk into a juvenile detention center or any prison across American and take a survey of the inmates more than 90% will most likely tell you that they were whipped as children. And yet, they still ended up in prison.
My adoptive mother used to rationalize beating me by saying things like – “I beat you because I love. I beat you so you won’t be killed by the police or the white man. I beat you to keep you from ending up in prison or an early grave.”
What kind of flawed logic is this?
Every time I heard those messages and each time my adoptive mother struck me, she damaged my sense of self-worth, and she sowed the seeds of anger, resentment and anger towards her. I did not respect her, I feared her. I did not think I needed saving from the police or the white man, I needed saving from my black mama who I thought was going to kill me with a belt, switch, wire hanger, or whatever other object she decided to use.
I am so sick of black folks who perversely embrace and promote violence against our children because they are unwilling to learn healthier non-violent ways to grow their children. What happened to this little boy in the video is abuse and it won’t help save him from a racist criminal justice system. It only creates a double terrorism for him and legions of other black children who are popped, whipped, or beaten on a daily basis.
As Renee Martin of Womanist Musings put it so eloquently: “Black people are in prison because we live in a white supremacist state that is determined to impoverish and criminalize blacks, not because we need to beat our children more. Don’t black kids have enough to deal with growing and learning in a society that fundamentally hates them, without piling even more abuse on their plates from the ones that are supposed to love and protect them?”