Before I start, if you have a problem with spanking stop reading now. If you think its ok for white Americans or Europeans determining the course of the lives of others, or the superiority of European or American child-rearing, ABSOLUTELY do not read any further.
Yesterday when I came back from Grenada, I got stuck waiting for my brother to pick me up at the airport, as the time wore on and I stood there feeling like an orphan, and missing my child so badly I could just melt in a puddle in anticipation, I heard an unmistakable sound in the distance.
It was the sound of a tantrum. A mature white couple passed me–incidentally these were two of the only three people who didn&singquot;t say good evening as they passed by–and walked off in the direction of the increasingly noisy tantrum.
Initially, when I couldn&singquot;t see them behind the growing trees, I thought it was a younger child. However, when they came into view, it turned out this was a seven or eight year old, behaving like a three year old. The parents were speaking to her in low tones, however her shrieks grew louder. She stamped her feet, and tried to drag her mother down. This is behaviour I would not tolerate in my own child if he were this child&singquot;s age.
The father, considering the length of time I had been hearing the shrieking, lost his patience took off his belt and out of the corner of my eye, I saw him give the little girl one lash across her legs. By no means, a violent lash. It was a disciplinary action and certainly mild in terms of the kind of licks I received as a child for REAL misbehaviour.
At any rate, the white couple who had been looking at the proceedings as they walked by, started shouting “Shame on you! Shame on you!”. From where I was standing, it wasn&singquot;t initally clear who she was addressing.
The father walked toward me, while the little girl continued to scream, and her exasperated mother stood still and continued speaking to her in low tones. As the father approached me, I asked him, “Was that white woman speaking to you?”
“Imagine that! The bloody cheek!” I replied, a little amazed.
“She, ” he went on, indicating his daughter, “is trying to get her own way, but she cannot have it with me.”
We exchanged a few more words, and they eventually progressed along drawing the rebellious little girl with them, and went into the terminal.
This was the seeming end of the matter.
Almost ten or maybe fifteen minutes later, as the parents and the now emotionally exhausted little girl, began walking back towards the car, a little white rental car pulled up, parking ILLEGALLY might I add in the drive through zone in front of the terminal, and full of self-righteous indignation, the white woman jumped out, followed by her equally indignant husband and jumped in the mother&singquot;s face, and began what I can only describe as a vituperative invective.
“I have called the police for you!” she shouted in a distinctly European accent, at the stunned mother, equally stunned father, and the now bewildered child.
That is all I allowed her.
She got no further than that, before my voice, more powerful and full of my own righteous fucking indignation boomed across the arrivals terminal, “Why don&singquot;t you mind your own business!”
“He hit his baby with a belt!”
“That is not a baby, and she is HIS child! He is within his rights as a parent to discipline his child! She was misbehaving!”
She turns to me, “So you approve of him hitting her with a belt?”
“I approve of him disciplining her because her behaviour merited it. Who do you think you are? You can&singquot;t come here and colonise our minds, simply because you disapprove. The way you raise your own children is your prerogative, but our culture doesn&singquot;t produce mass murders , cannibals or school killing sprees. That is his child, and what he did is right, and you are wrong. Nothing you can say or do can make what you are doing now right.”
“SHAME ON YOU!” she said shaking her head in disgust. At this point her husband chimed in and repeated the sentiment.
“Shame on me!” I replied, scathing derision in my voice. “Shame on you! You are a visitor here, and in our culture we raise our children according to our own traditions. You cannot come here and tell him how to discipline his child. You are out of place, and we say DAMN FAST around here. Imagine how you would feel if he was in your country and saw you discipline your own child, and did what you are doing now. Either you have no children, or you use another method of child rearing, but it&singquot;s your choice. Don&singquot;t foist your laxity on anyone else. Do it on your own nickle and in your own house.”
By this time, they had began to move away and go back to their car.
It was then I noticed a little crowd had come to see what was going on, and who could blame them? I deliberately raised my voice and projected across the space I was standing in. I was determined this message get across.
The parents, who were so shell shocked by this time, slowly unrooted themselves from the spot. The little girl&singquot;s arms were wrapped tightly around her mother&singquot;s neck, and her face pressed into it as well. The parents came up to me, and the father softly said, “Thank you.”
The little girl looked around at me, and I said to her, “You see how you put your Mummy in ting. You know you were misbehaving. You know your Daddy was right to punish you for it, but look at what it caused. You have to think about these things when you decide you want to behave bad. Your Daddy is there to guide you, so is your Mummy and you have to be part of the team.”
The little girl was so embarrassed, she started to cry again, and hid her face in her mother&singquot;s neck again.
The parents thanked me again, and walked away.
Me, I am still disgusted. How is that these people felt that they were entitled to dictate the course of these people&singquot;s lives. The level of righteous was required for them to initially say what they did, get in their car, pay their parking ticket, drive back around the airport and then COME BACK for a second go, DISTURBS me. Oludumare put me on that corner, and my ORI just took over. To the very core of my being I was offended on behalf of these parents who are doing only what they know to do.
It wasn&singquot;t like he pulled his hand back and lashed her with a long reach. It&singquot;s not like he hit her so hard he was leaving a mark. I saw it and it wasn&singquot;t a BEATING, it was a SPANKING.
In England, and in my travels to America, even here in Barbados and elsewhere I have seen white children misbehaving, but the way white parents often seem to deal with it is not the same as people of colour. We all hear the jokes Black comedians make about getting their ass beat as a child for messing up. White parents often seem to be placating their children, pandering to their tantrums, or responding in a way I think is inappropriate, but short of witnessing true violence, I would never presume to interject my opinion or track them down and call in the authorities for what I think is contributing to the weak willed, spoilt, indolence of the developed world.
I don&singquot;t believe in ABUSE. I don&singquot;t believe in BEATING. I do believe in DISCIPLINE. I think as a parent you need to know when to strike a balance between your anger at their behaviour and what is right. Yet, it&singquot;s the journey you make as a parent, and no one can walk that road for you.
The aspect of that whole stupid display, was the ENTITLEMENT these people felt. Their way was the right way, and their response was to attempt to IMPOSE themselves and their way on someone else. They did this without thinking, without any thought that they were not in their country and that their social mores were not applicable in this situation.
It&singquot;s just the amazing cheek of it. Like really, who did she think she was?