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A challenge to the cultural tradition of corporal punishment in Black homes and its connections to racial violence in America
Why do so many African Americans have such a special attachment to whupping children? Studies show that nearly 80 percent of black parents see spanking, popping, pinching, and beating as reasonable, effective ways to teach respect and to protect black children from the streets, incarceration, encounters with racism, or worse. However, the consequences of this widely accepted approach to child-rearing are far-reaching and seldom discussed. Dr. Stacey Patton’s extensive research suggests that corporal punishment is a crucial factor in explaining why black folks are subject to disproportionately higher rates of school suspensions and expulsions, criminal prosecutions, improper mental health diagnoses, child abuse cases, and foster care placements, which too often funnel abused and traumatized children into the prison system.
Weaving together race, religion, history, popular culture, science, policing, psychology, and personal testimonies, Dr. Patton connects what happens at home to what happens in the streets in a way that is thought-provoking, unforgettable, and deeply sobering. Spare the Kids is not just a book. It is part of a growing national movement to provide positive, nonviolent discipline practices to those rearing, teaching, and caring for children of color.
About the Author
Dr. Stacey Patton is an adoptee, child abuse survivor, and former foster youth turned award-winning journalist, child advocate, and assistant professor of multimedia journalism at Morgan State University. Dr. Patton was formerly a senior enterprise reporter with the Chronicle of Higher Education, where she covered graduate education, faculty life and research, and race and diversity issues. She writes frequently about race and child welfare issues for the Washington Post, Al Jazeera, BBC News, and The Root.com, and she is a weekly columnist for DAME Magazine. She has appeared on Democracy Now, CBS News, and programs on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, and the BBC. Dr. Patton has won journalism awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, Scripps Howard Foundation, William Randolph Hearst Foundation, and the National Education Writers Association, and, in 2015, she was the recipient of the Vernon Jarrett Medal for Journalistic Excellence in reporting on race. In addition to her work as a journalist, Dr. Patton is the author of a memoir, That Mean Old Yesterday, published in 2008 by Simon & Schuster. Dr. Patton also travels the United States delivering keynote addresses and conducting cultural competency trainings for child welfare and juvenile justice professionals. In 2016, she received an award from the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children for her service and advancement of cultural competency in child maltreatment prevention and intervention. Dr. Patton is also the creator of www.sparethekids.com, a web portal that offers education on child development issues and positive discipline techniques as alternatives to the physical punishment of children.
“The personal and generational damage Patton lays bare indicts a fearful culture of violence and implicates not only conceptions of good parenting among African Americans, but among Americans at large. This is a must-read for all concerned about the welfare of children, about America’s future, and about the U.S. Constitution’s pledge of ‘We the People’ to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” —Library Journal
“Spare the Kids is a necessary book. Drawing from history, popular culture, and cutting edge research, Stacey Patton makes a careful and persuasive argument against the practice of hitting children. Without condescension or unnecessary moralizing, this book will challenge your most deeply held assumptions and refute your strongest arguments. More importantly, it challenges us to develop a healthier and more humane approach to raising and loving our children.” —Marc Lamont Hill, author of Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond
“The impact on child-rearing among so many black families of Stacey Patton’s Spare the Kids may well prove as powerfully corrective as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin was upon the acceptance of chattel slavery.” —David Levering Lewis, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for biographies on W. E. B. Du Bois
“Patton brilliantly demonstrates the ways that corporal punishment is indelibly linked to white supremacy, and a continuation of the systemic logic that undergirds it. In that sense, her work is less moralizing—something we already have more than enough of—than a structural analysis of systemic injustice and how that injustice has been transmitted directly, and often brutally, onto the bodies of children.” —Tim Wise, author of White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son
“Patton’s book is the most forceful case against corporal punishment ever made. Rooted in a deep understanding of the historical devaluation of black life, informed by the best science on trauma and violence exposure as predictors of future violence, and written in a fierce, urgent tone, if you turn these pages, you will stop beating your child. Ending the legacy of the master’s lash in our schools and rejecting the preacher’s admonition against sparing the rod in our homes may be the surest way for parents to show black children that their lives matter.” —Khalil Muhammad, author of The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern America and professor at Harvard Kennedy School
“Spare the Kids is a heartbreaking—and important—book that addresses the nightmarish reality that Black parents devoted to bringing up their children with love and respect may engage in punishment that hurts their families and reinforces ideas of white superiority and Black inferiority. Skillfully weaving together history, the experiences of Black families, the reports of researchers and the work of child advocates, Stacey Patton is leading a call for change that will transform childrearing forever.” —Jorja Leap, author of Project Fatherhood: A Story of Courage and Healing in One of America’s Toughest Communities
“As a writer who had my daughter in my middle thirties and my son in my forties, I had thought a lot about how I wanted to raise them. I decided before they were born that I would not spank them. Stacey Patton’s Spare the Kids confirmed my instinct that it couldn’t be a way to build the kind of loving, trusting relationship I wanted to have with my kids. Being a parent is hard, no doubt. We make decisions all day, every day, small ones and big that impact our children’s daily lives and ones that have long-range consequences. Patton’s book reminds us that by respecting black children, their thoughts, their gifts, and their humanity, we show them that we love them.” —Benilde Little, national best-selling author of Good Hair, The Itch, and Welcome to My Breakdown
“Stacey Patton’s raw, searing and often disturbing examination peels back the layers of corporal punishment and exposes the deep and institutionalized wounds of our past, as well as the evidentiary tales of the present.” —Kuae Kelch Mattox, National President, Mocha Moms, Inc.