Dark Secrets: Obedience Training, Rigid Physical Violence, Black Parenting, and Reassessing the Origins of Instability in the Black Family Through a Re-Reading of Fox Butterfield's All God's Children
Reginald Leamon Robinson
Howard University School of Law
Howard Law Journal, Vol. 55, No. 2, 2012
In this Article, I attempt to address the etiology of black family instability, and I do so principally through a re-reading of Fox Butterfield’s All God’s Children, which in effect argues that slavery, racism, urbanization, and an inherited “impulsiveness” gene birthed Willie James Bosket (“Willie James”), a violent, juvenile killer, into our world. While I acknowledge that slavery and racism impacted the black family’s stability, I reject Butterfield’s premise. Rather, I posit that Willie James had been soul-murdered by his mother, Laura, principally not only because she brutally beat him, but also because she refused to emotionally nurture him. In effect, Willie James suffered from “Reactive Attachment Disorder,” thus over time revealing the psychopathic results of his early childhood maltreatment. Such maltreatment is the dark secret that more than likely explains the present-day, ongoing instability of the black family. Therefore, it is my thesis that Butterfield fails to explain the advent of Willie James because: (1) Butterfield mistakenly links Willie James’ violence to working class “honor codes” and killings; (2) Butterfield almost completely discounts the legacy of West African child-rearing practices of obedience training and rigid physical violence, which survived slavery; (3) Butterfield, like other race scholars or writers, is loathed to find fault with black parents who have been the first people to violently traumatize their children; and (4) Butterfield, as other writers, does not account for the impact of obedience training and rigid physical violence including emotional neglect, on children’s personalities, on family cohesiveness and stability, and social violence.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 62
Keywords: race, black family, crime, criminality, slavery, Jim Crow, violence, stability, corporal punishment, maltreatment
JEL Classification: Z100Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: May 27, 2012 ; Last revised: May 28, 2012
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