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Why Do So Many Black People Threaten To Hurt Children?

It doesn’t take much to set them off.  Adults, too often Black, are joining a growing chorus on social media and everywhere else to sing the praises of beating children—too often Black—for one infraction or another.

Most recently, a viral surveillance video of a 9-year-old boy viscously biting, punching, choking and kicking girl toddlers in a daycare center, has inspired a litany of odes to everything from corporal punishment to outright abuse.  Here are some of the comments I’ve seen:

“WHAP! WHAP! WHAP! … the sound that should be coming from that kid’s butt, EVERY time, and I mean EVERY time this kid even talks about doing something like this.”

“He needs to be put down, like a rabid dog. I don’t care if he’s 9. If he is allowed to roam free, he will most assuredly be a serial killer.”


“This kid needs an old fashion butt whooping!”

“I would beat the brakes of the day care worker & they better had got the boy out of my sight.”

“My fist was balled up just watching this video. Both the kid, the aunt, and the daycare worker need to be beat!”

“This evil 9 year old, should be charged as an adult, because he definitely knew what he was doing.” 

“If this was one of my kids omg I would be on death row right now cause him and everybody there would of been in there graves…real talk.”

Many of the commenters have called the child a “monster,” “thug,” “demon,” “menace to society,” and “pure evil.”  While some have called for him to be jailed or placed in a “psycho ward,” others see no redemptive possibilities for him; they predict that he will become the “next James Holmes,” a woman beater, a serial killer, or that he’ll end up dead before his time.

At the same time, the conversation about Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris, 14, violating the cultural taboo against airing her famous family’s “dirty laundry.” According to The Los Angeles Times “Paris sent a threat into cyberspace, referring to a sustained lack of contact from her grandmother: “9 days and counting… so help me god i will make whoever did this pay,” after, “8 days and counting. something is really off , this isn’t like her at all .. i wanna talk directly to my grandmother!!<|3.”

After Grandma Jackson returned from what was a vacation with her eldest daughter, Rebbie, it was reported that Paris’ aunt Janet verbally abused and slapped her for inappropriate Tweeting. In the time between that rumor (later retracted by celebrity gossip site TMZ) and the calmer factual accounts, singer Gladys Knight said on “The Talk” show on CBS that she would knock Paris’ teeth out for such an infraction

My concerns are two-fold.

First, the 9-year-old boy in Vicksburg, Mississippi needs help, not an “ass whooping,” as so many are quick to prescribe.

Vicksburg police, who were given the tape by the owner of Kiddie City Childcare Center, said the boy’s attacks went on for 10 to 20 minutes, going unnoticed by a daycare worker whose back was turned during the assaults.  That worker, Sandra Trevillion, has since been arrested and charged with two counts of contributing to the neglect of a minor.

The video also shows an angry parent of one the abused girls entering the center looking for answers.  When other children pointed to a six-year-old boy, the father, 29-year-old Jamie Williams, stormed over to the child and slapped him.  

But he hit the “wrong” child, police said.

Williams, who was also arrested and charged with assault, said that when he picked up his one-year-old daughter on Monday he took pictures of her busted lip, bruises, and a bite mark.  He told his side of the story.

‘She (the daycare worker) couldn’t tell me anything, you know what I’m saying?  But everybody in the classroom pointed to the little boy.  You know, I was kind of angry at the time.  So, I just slapped him upside his head like don’t be doing my daughter like that. You know what I’m saying?  I ain’t trying to hurt the child or nothing.  You know what I’m saying? I got children too.”

Williams described how he hit the child.

“I didn’t really just cock back and try to hurt the child.  I know the child is still a child, you know, but at that point in time I had to do something.  I had to hit him a little bit. You know, quit hitting my child man.  Don’t be putting your hands on my child like that. You know, I ain’t try to hurt the baby.  I know he a baby, he at a daycare.”

As I watched this video I, like many others, was shaken to the core.  I was horrified, speechless, and sick to my stomach.  I didn’t quite know how to process what I was seeing. 

The boy’s behavior tells me that this is something he learned.  Something was done to him or he witnesses it.  The fact that he takes medicine should not be discounted.  Clearly he’s taking his aggression, frustration, and boredom out on weaker people. This is learned behavior. If children are hit for every inappropriate behavior at a young age, with nobody explaining what they’ve done wrong, then the only thing they are being taught is to act aggressively towards those younger and weaker than they are.

As infuriated as I was watching that child attack those toddlers, it never occurred to me that someone should beat him.  Violence against a child is never the right response.  And hitting somebody else’s child is illegal.  

It’s interesting that so many people say, “I would be in jail today if that were my child.”  What does it mean that, as a people, we are so quick to default to prescriptive violence? Don’t we realize that just puts more Black people into the prison pipeline and the foster care system?  The whole community needs to learn some conflict resolution skills, ASAP!

As horrific as that video of the 9-year-old boy attacking younger children might be, we need to be coming together—as families, as neighbors, and as communities—to learn the reasons behind such horrible behavior.  Look into his family background, his home environment, the medicine he’s alleged to be taking—maybe violent outbursts could be a side effect?

Just as it was startling to hear sweet, beautiful Gladys Knight talk about permanently disfiguring a troubled teen girl, and justifying it with cultural references (“I’m from the South”), I’m disappointed to see so many otherwise sane and rational adults revert so automatically to violent forms of punishment in the name of “teaching some respect,” “administering some good home training,” and “showing a child right from wrong.”

I submit that introducing violence makes effective discipline more difficult, because the beating becomes the central point rather than the child’s behavior choices being problematic.  It disturbs me deeply that Black parents especially are so very, very quick to talk about straightening children out through spankings and beatings.

The conversations that erupt in response to shocking videos and celebrity fodder are perfect examples of where the healing and growth needs to take place.  While it is neither easy nor simple to change habits and behavior, this is a challenge we must undertake.

We must slow the rush to judgment, criticism, condemnation and talk of “whoopin’ that behind,” and replace it with empathy for a child in crisis who might not have the language, skills or tools to adequately communicate what they’re going through—whether that child is beating others as he was probably beaten—or expressing concern for the whereabouts of an adult caregiver on social media.

You are either part of the solution, or part of the problem.

What’s it gonna be?

2 comments on Why Do So Many Black People Threaten To Hurt Children?

  1. MSILVA says:

    VERY WELL said Stacey! I eagerly awaited to see what your more productive response to these incidents would be. “We” as African Americans must change our response to violence with more violence. We’ve got to break the cycleand learn a new way. What worked “back in the day” should no longer be accepted. It’s a new world. We MUST learn to talk with our children and develop an understanding as to where and what causes behavior that’s unacceptable. Beating someone who’s smaller than you to get them to do what you want them to do is essentially bullying.

  2. Cynthia says:

    After watching that video, I’m all for selective breeding. what I mean by that is that everybody shouldn’t be allowed to freely breed and make babies. There needs to be some benchmarks in place first.
    That 9 year old boy ‘LEARNED’ this behavior from someone(s). He didn’t just become this way.
    And while this type of behavior does happen across all racial socioeconomic barriers, it’s no secret that it is most common amongst poor socially disadvantaged people. And since black folks rate the highest in this group, it is no coincidence that they would have a large number of kids behaving this way.
    This is what happens when poor, uneducated folks are allowed to freely breed.

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