Over the past few days a video of a father beating his daughter has gone viral. The caption reads, “Bad parenting or is this type of discipline acceptable now a days? Father disciplines his 13-year-old daughter after missing for 3 days messing around with boys & then posts all on Facebook.”

The video shows a man beating a young woman with a belt while pulling her hair and calling her a whore and bitch. It was a horrific display of violence and brutal humiliation. A debate followed the posting about whether or not this form of punishment is appropriate. After spending way too much time debating this issue on Facebook, I felt it necessary to issue this short Public Service Announcement:

Love doesn’t look like this. 

There are many supporters of this abuse, repeating the same phrases to celebrate violence.
Here are a few examples:

1. “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” — Just as mainstream Western society is critical of Islam and the Koran about the treatment women in societies, African Americans should be just as critical of anyone that seeks to use Christianity and the Bible as an excuse for maltreatment and abuse. Self selective religious interpretation for the purposes of supporting physical violence and abuse was used during our own enslavement and colonization.

2. “If I don’t do it, the court system will do it one day.” — Black parents have been whipping their children for decades and it hasn’t stopped millions of our young Black boys and girls from going to prison. Beatings don’t solve that. Addressing overall societal issues is the leading way to prevent prison time. Beatings are not going to end the prison industrial complex because it places the complete blame on the imprisoned instead of society as a whole. It completely ignores the commercial drive of prison systems that lead to overzealous laws and filled prisons. This father’s beating is representative of a myriad of societal issues including the institutionalized usage of brute punishment over rehabilitation.

3. Some one asked me, “Have you ever had a child go missing for 3 days?” — In response I asked, “Have you ever seen child abuse?” The leading reason for runaways is physical and sexual abuse. Based on the video’s caption,  if this is what parental love looks like in her home, would you blame her for leaving or seeking love elsewhere? If this brutality was so easily displayed for public enjoyment, one can only imagine what goes on behind closed doors.

80% of runaway and homeless girls reported having ever been sexually or physically abused. 34% of runaway youth (girls and boys) reported sexual abuse before leaving home and forty-three percent of runaway youth (girls and boys) reported physical abuse before leaving home.  – National Runaway Hotline Stats 

It’s deeply disturbing that so many members of the African American community view such vicious behavior as parental guidance. Perhaps this is indicative of an overall healing that needs to take place in our community. It’s also further indicative of how we view Black girls and women. Zora Neale Hurston once stated, “Black women are the mules of the world.” Her words still ring true as to the thought process associated with the treatment of Black women. You know what you do to a mule that doesn’t obey? You beat it.

There is a pathology against Black girls and women that deems us deserving of abuse no matter how cruel or violent. This is an over present line of thinking that needs to be disbanded.

Finally, what if we are to assume for just one impossible second that this really is a father that “cares?” Is this young girl now supposed to connect physical violence and verbal abuse with love? Let’s just think about it for a second. If this is love, what is hate?

In the introduction of Gender Talk: The Struggle for Women’s Equality In African American Communities, Johnnetta B. Cole & Beverly Guy-Sheftall state:

Violence against Black people wears many faces. There’s a much needed focus on police brutality and Black male-on-male homicide, but too little attention to rape, spousal abuse, and incest. We have often been in contentious debates as well with other Black Women about the impact of gender oppression within our own communities, how we treat one another, and our hasty defense of Black men no matter how offensive their behavior. Many Black women have been convinced that there is a conspiracy by white America to destroy Black men, and as a result they remain silent about physical and emotional abuse women suffer within our communities.

This isn’t about creating divisions between Black women and men. It’s about whether we love our community enough to acknowledge gender oppression, stop silencing pertinent discussions about violence against Black women by Black men and view abuse with a critical eye. We can’t uplift, protect or love our girls and women by inflicting violence on them and calling them bitches. Supporting anyone that uses these abusive actions is not only counter-productive but in the direct opposition to the well being of our future generations. For the sake of Black girls and boys everywhere, it’s imperative that we establish early on that Love Doesn’t Look Like This.

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of & To reach JAM, email her at

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7 thoughts on “Love Doesn’t Look Like This

    1. Thank you for your point of view I’m glad I’m not alone. When I saw this posted on facebook the anonymous response was “good parenting”. Now I am not Black but Mexican and my boyfriend is Black we have a son together and he has 3 other kids as well and has raised all of them. I hope I can use this website to drive home some points with him. I hear so many people say “I was whooped and I turned out fine” well I’m hear to say I was spanked and not abused but I did not turn out fine. My mom disciplined me just like all my friends that grew up in a conservative Christian home it was not considered abuse but it sure felt like it. I lost trust for my mom and had and still have a little resentment to this day but I love my mom very much. It definitely put a wedge in our relationship though. I want to be strong and stern with my son but I will never hit hm. No matter what anyone tells me hitting is hitting doesn’t matter if your and lands on a butt, face, arm or leg it is hitting and it’s wrong!

  1. You mention the lasting effects on the girl’s understanding of what love is. I would not be surprised if the father had experiences of being mistreated and told it was love that led him to seek power in this way. Abuse moves from one generation to the next, sadly.

  2. Let me start by saying I do believe in ” Spare The Rod Spoil The Child”. I would never spank my child in the streets though. From what I can see this look’s like the father started being a father too late. If you parent from the beginning most of the tantrums you run into would not happen. My parents instilled a healthy dose of fear with a lengthy explanation of the consequences of my actions. In saying that there is no one size fits all for every child and that’s where spanking come in. Some times I had to be spanked to make me realize that my parents meant business…every child is different. I know lots of parents that let their children run wild and when they get that call from the cops they get on TV and say that their child is an angel and wouldn’t hurt anybody. Parenting is a 24/7 job and most parents today don’t know that or are not willing to be that kind of parent. There too busy trying to catch up to what they thought they missed when they had that child. When you start a family your life changes forever…it’s not just about you anymore. However, once a child has started running away you are past the point of spankings…you need counseling.

    1. There can be a lot of reasons for kids to act out, and it may not necessarily reflect poor parenting. For instance, if you have a child with a mental disorder or a child that has suffered a traumatic experience, acting in such a fashion probably would not be corrected by spanking. Sometimes it can be beneficial to get outside help to evaluate a situation. Perhaps there are things she doesn’t feel comfortable talking to her dad about b/c she doesn’t want to be seen as a bad girl, a whore, a bitch. Any litany of identities that society flings at black girls. If he had simply told her that he was afraid, that he knew of children who had suffered b/c of what she did. That he only wants the best for her. That even though she’s a kid her actions could be considered criminal in some places (truancy–school to prison pipeline). And that very rarely are girls or women safe around men and boys. And that he knows this b/c he’s a man and he has done shit. And maybe he still does. Like, I know that not all parents have the benefit of time, energy and self-awareness to have these sorts of penetrating conversations, but I think they should definitely be had if there is an opportunity. Our children are not our property. We are responsible for them until they are of legal age. They are human beings with a life that should be respected at every stage of development. They are intelligent. You would not spank your co-worker if he acted out, supposedly as a sign of poor parenting. So I question the use of instructive violence against a child. As things get better I hope that spankings are not improperly seen as the only option and that parents have the ability to use other options to teach and build up their kids. I do understand though, the pain of a spanking being preferable to seeing your kid killed or otherwise harmed. I just hope people approach the matter with consciousness, especially of how a child might process the experience and whether or not the reason behind punishment is understood.

  3. Can fear be healthy??
    My parents instilled a bit of fear in me but I don’t think that was healthy. It affected my confidence in speaking up to authority in school and outside. It took me a long time to find my voice. I love my parents but I wish that they didn’t instil that little bit if fear within me and it was not until that I became an adult that I developed a deep friendship and respect for them… Not as a child to a parent but as human to human.

    I hope that when I do have kids, I will have the patience to discipline them in a non-violent way. I hope that I wouldn’t think that shaming them will keep them on whatever path I envision for them. I hope that I will see them as their own person and not an extension of me. I think too many times parents react abusively because they are shamed by their children’s actions and to hold face and due to that embarrassment they react in anger.


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