How about sparing the kid and not using the rod?

Kelley Evans, The Undefeated | 4/13/2017, 12:42 p.m.
Stacey Patton examines ‘whupping’ kids in her new book, ‘Spare the Kids’

How long did it take you to write this book?

Eight months.

Where did you do most of your writing?

I wrote most of it at home. I think all of it, really, yeah. All of it at home.

How old were you when you first started getting that itch to tell your story?

I always wanted to say something about it, even when I was a kid. I didn’t have the language. I didn’t have the emotional literacy. This conversation happened amongst adults. Adults were the ones who joked about it, who preached about it, who argued that it was a good thing, that it was necessary. I didn’t agree when I was a kid, but I didn’t have the language.

When I was in foster care again — when I was 12, 13 — I started writing. I started first writing about my own experience. I needed to figure it out. I needed to understand it. That’s when I first started from a therapeutic perspective talking about it in foster care, but I started seriously wanting to write a book about it when I was in college. That’s when I started writing the first book.

How were your college years?

I spent my first two years at Johns Hopkins but I hated it, and so then I transferred to NYU. I was a basketball player in college, so I was heavily recruited, but I also wanted the academic experience. Then, once I got to graduate school to do a Ph.D. in African-American history, that’s when I started really seeing the parallels between the experiences of enslaved children and children who grew up during Jim Crow and my own personal experience when it came to this issue.

I really started delving into slave narratives and Jim Crow narratives, and I could see that even though whipping children might be something that’s prevalent in black communities, it’s not intuitive to our culture. That’s when I started really understanding how this is a result of historical trauma.

What do you want readers to take from Spare the Kids?

I want them to be inspired to stop hitting their kids, and to treat them with respect, and to accept this idea that children should enjoy the same right to bodily integrity as adults. I want them to go through each chapter and really, really take in the information, whether it’s talking about the historical roots of the issue, to see where this practice came from, to know that it did not come from Africa, the principal regions of West Africa where African-Americans’ ancestors came from. It’s not something we did. That colonialism, slavery, indoctrination into Christianity and hundreds of years of racial devaluation are to blame for this.

This is not something that’s native to us, so we need to stop and ask, where did this come from and why do we embrace it? Why do we think it’s a good thing, when it’s really counterintuitive and it’s at the root of a lot of our issues in our communities? Whether it’s the school-to-prison pipeline, whether it’s disparities in educational achievement, racial disparities in foster care and child fatalities. Black people have the highest child maltreatment rate, also fatalities. I want ministers to stop preaching ‘spare the rod, spoil the child.’ It’s not even in the Bible. I want comedians to stop joking about it, radio hosts to stop joking about it, and to look at how this is damaging. How it was damaging to us, those of us who survived it, and how it’s continuing to damage our children and our communities.