So the other day I was at work g̶o̶s̶s̶i̶p̶i̶n̶g̶ engaging in riveting cultural discussion with my colleague and sweetgirl Sherene. Among all of the topics we go through on a daily basis, one in particular stood out to me, and that was the Caribbean, and specifically Barbadian culture of beating / hitting our youth.
And as always, I have a super controversial view on it that I’m bout to share with y’all. Grab ya cups. Tea is served.
Everybody in Bim knows that you haven’t truly bonded with somebody until you share cut-ass chronicles. As long as you’re 16 and above, you almost definitely have some kind of story to share that basically goes like this:
Them: Get back in here by 6:00 or is a cut ass.
Me: Yes, please.
M: Gets home at 5:59pm.
T: You, ahn tell you get home by 2:30?
M: ??? no u said 6.
T: Oh so Ise a liar now? You feel you bad? Bring a belt and come.
M: But I wasn’t even home at 2:30-
Them, eyes rolling back and levitating off the ground: B a c k c h a t , y o u h e a t h e n? Daz more licks. Try and bring dah belt.
And after the cut-ass, you sit down in the bedroom staring at the door like “I should barely run ‘way tonight, then.”
But here’s a super unpopular, and really serious opinion: funny as those stories might be, it’s actually a coping mechanism for trauma.
And it gets better.
Most of our parents are struggling with the same mental baggage we are. And they took it out on us.
This is not to say that every case is this way. Some of y’all were just demon spawns smh. I, however, am referring to the many that are.
‘Low me to explain.
See, in past generations, it was cultural norm to get grab up by your edges for the smallest thing. Most likely an adaptation of colonisation, where the colonisers would mutilate black people for no reason. So you do something Shelly down the street didn’t like and it get back to your mother? Cut-ass. Get home after 3 when school finishes at 3 and you live 30 mins walk away? Cut-ass. Vomit on your grandmother floor cause she probably give you something to tomay you but your god is a living god? Cut-ass.
By allowing this trend to go unchecked, they further perpetuated a societal norm of setting impossible boundaries, and getting cruel when the boundaries were crossed, thereby resulting in what I consider to be extreme physical retaliation. Children had to tip-toe around their elders because even having the wrong expression on your face was a beating. They were under a constant state of mental stress from parents that often would never explain why they were being beat as badly as they were, and they knew better to ask – if they wanted to be able to sit anytime in the coming week, they would keep their questions to themselves.
To make matters worse, if the situation was more serious, such as them being molested by a respected family member / individual in society (which was much more common than you might think), it was automatically assumed they were lying, and on top of the shame of being molested and having their cries for help rejected, was the pain that came from the beating they got when their parent / guardian auto-dismissed their complaints.
This raised a generation of adults with anxiety, depression, anger management issues, and trouble with trusting and/or opening up, as well as connecting emotionally to other people.
Adults who coped with their trauma through food, sex, partying, drugs, religion. Coped, but never healed.
And then those adults got kids. And guess who those kids are.
That’s right. Our parents.
The reality that to stand up for yourself was disrespect became commonplace. As did the idea that parents aren’t obligated to explain why they beat you sometimes until your skin tore.
Some mothers were so anxious due to their past that some of them tried to keep their girls as far away from boys as possible. Didn’t want them to go out. Were against sleep overs altogether, regardless of how long or how well they know their daughter’s friends or her parents. Didn’t want their daughters to own shorts, and if they did, to only wear them in the house. Some were so scared of their daughters enduring even a fraction of their trauma, and have only been exposed to expressing displeasure through anger that if the child does something to worry them, they explode and the reflex is a beating. Getting their ears rung. An unnecessarily hard pinch.
Boys weren’t exempt either, shouldering many physical blows for minor things that could have been discontinued with a simple discussion. The reality of the situation is that several of our parents & grandparents were & are abusive, but it’s cultural norm so everybody lets it slide.
The trauma is excused by sentences like, “a good beating is why I’m so responsible and well-mannered.” No, Karen. Your crippling anxiety has prevented you from taking any true risks, including speaking up when you’re being unfairly treated.
“I get beat and nothing int wrong with me.” Jeff, you can’t even have a civil discussion that contains somebody’s opinion opposing yours without shouting and getting in their face like you want to beat them. Do you know who else used to bully you into silence with aggression? Your elders.
“The problem with today youth is that them want a good beating.” Incorrect, Margaret. What they need is a parent / elder that they feel comfortable communicating their fears and mistakes with. You, in your obsession with being the authoritative figure in the relationship, completely neglected your child’s emotional state, and now they would rather fumble through life and end up pregnant at 15, than tell you about their first real exposure to anything sexual at 13.
The strained communication, paired with one sided respect and explosive / unreasonable anger creates children like us – that, like our parents, are anxious, depressed and have difficulty with emotional connections. Issues that are never discussed.
And then we wonder why we can’t find real love in our generation.
All those #growingupblack memes.
All the “why am I like this” memes.
To continue to normalise the abusive and detrimental reality of the beating culture is to continue to support mental illness in children, and violent / harmful behaviors in adults.
And that’s the tea on that.