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In December of 2011, Michael Taylor was shot to death outside of his home, in spite of his uncle’s intervention.  Taylor’s mother admitted that as a result of the video going viral that her son was bullied at school, and his uncle questioned whether or not his actions made Taylor feel like he had something to prove. “I was led by the right spirit when I did it, but now the enemy is twisting it in my head like I did something wrong,” Ward said. Intent is not a magical elixir that absolves one of responsibility or culpability.

Ward not only physically assaulted his nephew; he demanded the video of his violent act be placed on the internet for the world to see.  Despite Ward’s so-called intervention, and the many that championed his actions, Taylor is dead. Clearly, whipping Taylor with a belt and publicly humiliating him did not lead to a positive result.  On the other hand, it most likely led to resentment and anger because it was a violation of his person.  It is also highly likely that through his actions, Ward eliminated any chance that Taylor would feel safe to turn to him in a time of need or trouble, because of the violation of trust.

Taylor Ward isn’t just a sad story about gang involvement; he is a cautionary tale about the futileness of depending on archaic methods of discipline and eroding trust between parent/guardian and child. Germany, Sweden and New Zealand are three of the thirty-one countries that have already outlawed spanking. The African-American experience is certainly a unique one, but that uniqueness should not extend to barbarity (or employing the practices of our oppressors).  Beating our own children reduces our communities to the savages that we are constantly constructed to be by Whiteness, because not only is it violent – it presents as a lack of intelligence and imagination.

Womack may well feel that in physically disciplining her son with an extension cord that she was asserting control and affirming their family’s moral code, but what she taught him that day is that his safety and his bodily integrity are not a part of her priorities.  How long are we going to keep performing the same actions with negative results, before we realize that spanking is not the solution to behavioral issues?  The only way to avoid more deaths like that of Taylor Ward, is to actively begin to parent in a manner that is more consistent with the results we hope to achieve.

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  • Fuchsia

    Discipline is about the parents ability to prepare their child for society. Only you can answer the question of which one is more likely for your child, death or jail. If it’s death then spanking is a must. If it’s jail then all other forms of discipline may work. Is it a cultural issue? Maybe.

    Here are a few thoughts on spanking, abuse and discipline. If you give fair warning before you punish your child for the offense it’s not abuse. You give them power the moment you warn them of the consequence, and they now have the choice to do right vs wrong. Obey authority or disobey authority.

    I believe there are some things in life that require a spanking. Straight up in-your-face disobedience needs a spanking, especially if the worst thing that could happen to your child is actual physical pain, dismemberment, or death. Albeit the lesson that was lost on the child should’ve been taught within their first 5 years (who’s the boss?). The likelihood of having to spank them for something should be nonexistent by a certain age. If you have to spank your child past a certain age it becomes weird. And anytime a spanking becomes weird it’s 2 seconds away from being abuse.

    Discipline is a private matter. When it becomes so obnoxious that people can actually see it from the outside there is abuse going on. And what the public sees is only the tip of the iceberg. A simple “we’ll discuss it when we get home” works wonders. And if you are at home then “time out” followed by the discussion of rules and consequences should suffice. Build up to a spanking after a few discussions if necessary, but some kids actually hate lectures enough to do the right thing.

    Having a plan of action with your child before you ever have to spank them is ideal. This was the way I grew up. I knew spanking was a part of the overall discipline routine, yet I was spanked less than a handful of times. When I was spanked I always knew it was coming and I always felt empowered by my ability to make a weighted decision about my own fate before the severe consequence. I was able to to ask myself “was it worth it?” That’s the power of a spanking, never to be confused with abuse. Physical abuse means having no power, no choice, no expectation of how bad it could be at any given time. Abuse is traumatic, spankings are liberating.

    • gryph

      excepting for the `spanking is liberating’ part. this was a great, great break down. thanks for taking the time.

    • full moon

      Very well said Fruchsia. Interesting perspective.

    • Thea

      Case closed, someone bang the gavel.

  • Carly

    Dear Renee,

    The Op Ed “Whipping and Spanking Are Not Cultural Discipline, They’re Abuse” discusses the use of spanking and how it is dangerous. Martin says that spanking behaviors are usually carried out by African American families. She says that there is pressure on the Black community to raise their children to become the opposite of what is expected in them with school. They want their child to show that they are educated and willing to learn instead of dropping out. In order to instill good behavior whipping and spanking seem like the right thing to do. With schools using corporal punishment for “not following the dress code” and other incidents, spanking seems normal in the black community. However, Martin argues that just because you are black, doesn’t mean spanking is ok. Spanking leads to a violent path and it is abuse to the child.

    I agree with spanking being considered abuse. I think that being exposed to physical punishment and a young age leads to a violent and disturbed path. However, spanking is a huge cultural factor. Even though Martin says that it is not cultural discipline, I think it has everything to do with their culture. If family members accept spanking, then the less likely they will give into social norms and stop spanking. In the south corporal punishment is used so the black community sees it as okay and the normal thing to do.

    There is a lot of reasoning behind why a parent would spank, but I think culture and religious beliefs have mostly everything to do with it.

    Carly Kaplan

    Champaingn, IL