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.