Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

Adrian Peterson arrest draws debate across racial, cultural, ideological lines

by Take Two®

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Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on from the sideline during a game against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on September 7, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Vikings beat the Rams 34-6. Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Ever since NFL star Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse, the incident has sparked a lot of discussion and debate.

Monday on Take Two, we heard from Washington Post reporter DeNeen Brown. Back in 1998, she wrote an article that looked at the roots of spanking within the African American community. The article was republished over the weekend in response to the Peterson news.

In it, she made the case that the command for a child to go pick a switch and prepare to get beaten is "part of a cultural tradition that sought to steel black children for the world, forge their characters, help prepare them for the pure meanness that waited out there, just because of the color of their skin."

Take Two listeners found this characterization unfair — as did Khadijah White, an assistant professor in journalism and media studies at Rutgers University. Her recent piece for the Atlantic is titled "Adrian Peterson is not a Racial Symbol."

Existing studies show that about 89 percent of black parents say they spank their children, but that's not much more than the 80 percent of all Americans who say they discipline their children in this way, according to White.

Many Americans embrace "the ‘spare the rod’ ideology" or an "imaginary castle doctrine... where everything that happens in my home is under my purview and it’s nobody else’s business," she said, adding that there are perils inherent in talking about spanking as specifically part of black culture in this country.

"When it comes to the black community, there is the legitimate feeling of always being under a microscope when to comes to parenting,” she said, pointing out that black parents are more likely to lose their children when presented with allegations of abuse and are more likely to have their children stay in foster care longer than their white peers.

White, who says she was spanked as child, said “using violence and intimidation to teach children to comply with you is the worst possible lesson one can teach their child.”

A high-profile case like Peterson's, White says, presents an opportunity for Americans to ask: ‘What is it about our society that says spanking is OK, that says beating people who are weaker and [more] vulnerable is OK?’”

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