By Dr. Adisa Azubuike
There is no controversy: an adult punching another adult into an unconscious state is wrong, psychologically, traumatic and possibly criminal. There is no controversy: a parent hitting a child with a switch, belt, whip that leaves welts, welts that bleed and leave marks, or welts without remaining marks is also wrong, traumatic and criminal.
Punching a woman because she may have disagreed with you, tapped you on the shoulder, swore at you, or even spat at you, is reprehensible. Beatin!”, “sharing licks!” or “giving a whuppin’!” to a child of any age, because they are not listening, takes its toll psychologically. Yet in our community – the African, African-Canadian, African-Caribbean, African-American and the African Diaspora – there is still debate about the rectitude of the above instances of domestic violence.
From a psychological perspective both instances are indefensible. Yet we still equivocate on the rectitude of hitting a woman and beating a child. And please don’t tell me, my parents did it to me. My parents did it to me too!
We learn many things from our parents both wonderful and erroneous and we decide what we won’t continue due to greater knowledge and increased enlightenment. Most, if not all, acts of hitting, is out of anger.
Violence against women and children is usually done when we are annoyed, frustrated and angry, yet we often rationalize it, especially with children, as a thoughtful way of administering discipline. When was the last time you disciplined your child by hitting them without being angry? And I won’t ask about when you last hit your significant other without anger.
According to the Global Initiative to end all Corporal Punishment, 38 countries have signed a ban on corporal punishment. Neither Canada, nor the U.S. or most African and Caribbean countries have signed on.
In our community we have a history of socially acceptable violence against each other due to our slave experience, and for many, “Massa whippin” has become “Mammy and Daddy beatin’.” Many of us don’t realize we are continuing the legacy of slavery’s whips and welts when we hit our children and our women.
We have to collectively take stock of this and stop. We also have to realize that when we spank, beat, whip, hit or share licks we are teaching our children, both boys and girls, that violence accompanies love. That I can say I love you in one breath and then inflict pain through violence in the next instance.
This can lead to our children growing up thinking that it is okay to love someone and punch them or it is okay to be loved by someone who punches, kicks and hits you. This message in our community is still too confusing. We have to recognize that we, the progeny of chattel slavery, have to uniformly and unanimously disavow any form of domestic violence.
Love and Lash must forever be separated.
Dr. Adisa Azubuike is a Toronto-based registered psychologist specializing in treatment of depression, anxiety, anger and trauma in children, adolescents and adults.