Just in time for April, which is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, there's a new clip making the viral rounds of an angry black dad wailing on his child with a belt.
In a video partially titled "Father Whoops on His 13-Year-Old Daughter Dressed Like Beyoncé After Missing for 3 Days," a scantily clad black girl is being swung around by her long hair as her father mercilessly beats her in public. The girl, who never cries or makes any noise at all, holds on to her purse and tries to protect herself. There's a woman in the background—hopefully not the child's mother—calling her a "bitch" and a "ho."
Some viewers were shocked to discover that the man doing the hitting was the girl's father. "[This] video is disturbing," wrote one commenter. "This is a bit far. I thought it was a pimp and one of his ladies." If I had not seen the caption before I watched the video, I would have reached the same conclusion.
Comments declaring the dad's actions "a bit too far"—or any negative criticism—were few and far between. I'm not surprised, because whenever we've seen these types of "discipline" videos before—most infamously with the angry father who caught his daughters twerking and the disgruntled uncle who discovered his nephew was posing as a thug on Facebook—it seemed the majority of viewers applauded the parents for taking action and not sparing the rod. Either that or folks just laughed and went on with life.
Those same folks who applauded, though? When this girl is 16 and pregnant by the first boy who offers "love" and a sense of security/safety—and if she was missing for three days, I'd bet money she's already found that guy—they'll wonder how it happened. Or better yet, they'll blame the girl for being "fast" and "irresponsible." And no one will look at this beating incident as a display of where it all went further wrong, when that's exactly what it is.
I watched this most recent video and had the same thought I had the first time I watched the father going H.A.M. on his twerking daughters with an extension cord: This is how black girls get lost.
In both instances, you have young girls who are dressing too sexy and acting "too grown." Part of that comes with the age—being "womanish" is a phase some teenage girls go through—and not fully understanding the consequences of presenting themselves that way. Part of it is desperation for attention, particularly male. And part of it is low self-esteem. The shocked and angry fathers address the issue by trying to beat some sense into the girls, but they never seem to get that they're making the situation 10 times worse. No one's self-esteem or confidence—two real issues here—ever got higher after being beaten.
In this most recent video, it's a 13-year-old girl who hasn't been home in three days. Something is already very wrong at home if the kid has run away. And given her stoic reaction to being beaten, it's not a far leap of logic to guess this isn't the first—and probably won't be the last—time her father's lost control and called it discipline. If you were getting beaten like that and tossed around like a rag doll—and also being called a "bitch" and "ho"—wouldn't you want to run away from home, too? Or better yet, when you got beaten like that, did you want to be at home?
Running away is an issue that a beating doesn't address. And by beating her like he did in public, the father has practically assured she won't be in the house very long. Wherever she was for those three days, it was probably with someone who she feels treats her better—and she likely will be back there soon enough.
I feel for this girl. We don't know where she was for those three days, but a child who is looking for love and acceptance—or just not to be hit—in all the wrong places needs a hug, a conversation (or several) and a dad who protects her and reinforces her self-esteem, not a father who treats her like she's an errant prostitute. That doesn't solve anything.
(Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life and the upcoming Don't Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love. Follow her on Twitter.)