Last week, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted on child abuse charges after allegedly punishing his 4 year-old son so violently that there were lacerations and bruises over most of his body. Peterson turned himself in and bailed himself out in 3o minutes. To their credit, the Vikings brass deactivated him before Sunday’s game against the Patriots.
Many have weighed in. A bit of the commentary has been, well, puzzling. And a little scary. Our tendency to rationalize abuse, to normalize it, is as much about denial as it is survival. We tend to believe that these stories build character, that we turned out well because of, not despite it. I grew up, as many black kids did, knowing that I was a reflection of my parents. Whenever you leave this house, you are representing me was a daily mantra. As such, bad grades and bad behavior resulted in punishment that was, at times, severe. She didn’t know any better because that’s how she was raised.
It’s okay to admit that our parents weren’t perfect, and that they did do some fucked up things, as NFL Countdown co-host Cris Carter did on-air during Sunday morning’s broadcast.
“People believe in disciplining their children,” Carter said, teeming with emotion. “… My mom did the best job she could, raising seven children by herself. But there are thousands of things I have learned since then, and my mom was wrong. This is the 21st century. My mom was wrong. She did the best she could, but she was wrong.” “I promised my kids I won’t teach that mess to them,” Carter said. “You can’t bend a kid to make them do what you want.”
The cycle can be broken.