Adrian Peterson physically harmed his son. He was wrong. There is a line between discipline and abuse that has nothing to do with whether or not one’s ideology permits corporal correction. Adrian crossed that line, as many who are ideologically against corporal discipline do at the other end of the spectrum when they are so lenient with their children that it leaves psychological welts of indulgence which over time create a pathology of entitlement that later spills over on the rest of us.
However, before we allow a dominant cultural agenda of conservative versus liberal to set the terms of this conversation, we need to be real about the social context in which Adrian Peterson is raising his child. It is the same catch-22 that faces any parent rearing a black son. Adrian Peterson’s actual fault was in overcompensating in his race-against-the-clock to cultivate in his son a particular manifestation of discipline that may one day be the only thing that saves his life–after he’s no longer 4-year-old-cute and many of the same people who now berate the father have begun to view the son as a threat even with his hands up and have no qualms “disciplining” him by taking his life, while telling the rest of us it was justified.
–Salon.com contributor Brittney Cooper, aka “Professor Crunk,” offers an analysis that reflects much of my own evolving perspective on corporal punishment.
-Melissa Harris Perry hosted a useful panel on the subject that included my friend Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis (Part 1 & Part 2). I do, however, disagree with Melissa’s insistence and the panelist’s apparent agreement that all corporal punishment/correction/intervention is violence and thus abuse.
–TheNation.com contributor Mychal Denzel Smith does some important work on this subject, although I disagree with his blanket analysis that corporal punishment is an extension of the
politics of respectability. Though it can be, it is not exclusively so. Often it is an extension of the ethic “do what you need to make it home.” And that’s real.