NYT Readers React to Adrian Peterson Op-Ed

MED_DebatingRaceCoverIn short order, Georgetown University sociology professor and esteemed author Michael Eric Dyson‘s New York Times op-ed “Punishment or Child Abuse?” started appearing in the paper’s “Most Viewed” and “Most Emailed” lists. Helped in that regard by ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd, who urged his listeners this morning to take the time to read the piece.

Another sign of just how provocatively Dyson has cut into the raging debate about the scandal surrounding Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is the churning quantity of reader comments. At press time, feedback had zoomed past the 600-mark to remind once more that real-time reaction is so much more compelling than the snail-mailed Letters-to-the-Editor of yore.

Here’s one of the scholarly points made by Dyson, who says he vividly remembers being violently punished by his father as a teenager:

Like many biblical literalists, lots of black believers are fond of quoting Scriptures to justify corporal punishment, particularly the verse in Proverbs 13:24 that says, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” But in Hebrew, the word translated as “rod” is the same word used in Psalms 23:4, “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” The shepherd’s rod was used to guide the sheep, not to beat them.

Many believers — including Mr. Peterson, a vocal Christian — have confused the correction of children’s behavior with corporal punishment. The word “discipline” comes from the Latin “discipuli,” which means student or disciple, suggesting a teacher-pupil relationship. Punishment comes from the Greek word “poine” and its Latin derivative “poena,” which mean revenge, and form the root words of pain, penalty and penitentiary.

Meanwhile, from the winnowed “NYT Picks” reader comments panel, this one from Dave in Colorado is reflective of the ongoing back-and-forth:

I find a couple of premises pretty unconvincing. One is that black parenting traces its roots to slavery and is in someway a practice created by the whip of a white master hundreds of years ago. I have plenty of African friends who have very similar attitudes, likewise for Hispanic friends. ‘Whoopins’ have been prevalent in many cultures, including European and Asian until very recently, I don’t think the claim that it can be traced to slavery in African American culture would stand up to scrutiny.

I also don’t believe that police violence in any way informs a parent’s decision on how to discipline their children, that is just a gratuitous addition to connect the thesis of this article to recent events.

The real issues seem to be that some people feel that they are making their children better people by beating them and that adults who are unable to control their anger towards children create a new generation of future adults with the same problem. This article would be more interesting if it would look at those issues more closely instead of leading with sensational claims about slavery and police brutality.

[Book jacket via: michaelericdyson.com]

@hollywoodspin rhorgan@gmail.com Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.