Amid all of the primary conversation of whether Atlanta megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar put his hands on his 15-year old daughter (and to what extent); the secondary conversation has been mostly concerned with the concept of physical discipline of children. You have the ardent Dollar supporters who support him regardless of the charges, circumstances... or even the evidence for that matter. They will recite "touch not my anointed" quicker and more frequently than baskets in the NBA playoffs; not pausing to consider whether Dollar is actually innocent or even anointed for that matter. You have the religious cynics seizing the moment to mock Christianity generally and the pastor in question more specifically. And we can't forget those in the pastoral community who blithely trot out instructions to not "judge" and simply "pray" for those involved; never actually taking a stand against either the aberrant behavior or stand in solidarity with the victim(s) after the fact.
Somewhere in the midst of the aforementioned groups, we in the African-American community probably can find ourselves.
Whether or not Creflo Dollar abused his daughter... that is a worthy conversation to be had. Whether or not physical discipline has any place in the rearing of kids, that too is worthy fodder for dialogue. Conflating the two is horribly misguided and does a disservice to any attempt to sincerely address either.
Regardless of whether you believe the allegations against Creflo Dollar, just know that choking, punching (closed hand) and beating with a shoe are not examples of physical discipline. They are felony assaults in most states. It is nowhere near the neighborhood of spankings, be they with hands, belts or switches. The intent, violence and end results are in no way comparable. Choking can lead to death by accidental asphyxiation.. A grown man punching (closed hand) a 15-year old girl is not "discipline," it is cowardly and criminal. Do not conflate what allegedly happened in the Dollar house with any discussion of "tough love" or "what's wrong with today's youth." They are separate, distinct and unrelated.
Let me be clear...
I am all for physical discipline, regardless of the various laws around the nation. In California, child abuse is defined as follows:
"Neglect; willful cruelty or unjustifiable punishment; any physical injury inflicted other than by accidental means."
By strict interpretation, any one of us who received a spanking or was slapped by our parents was a victim of "child abuse."
I am NOT for the actual abuse of children. There is a difference, irrespective of how the law reads. My father taking a belt to my backside dozens of times taught me about decisions, consequences and penalties. It was to teach me in the safety of the home, before having to be taught by either the judicial system or a morgue.
When my mother shook me like a pair of dice after running into the street without scanning for approaching traffic, it was the clearest way to elucidate the seriousness and consequences of poor decision-making; without me having to actually get hit by a car for her point to stick. I was 6 years old, not mature enough to be reasoned with or politely explained the severity of the moment. When she smacked me for sucking my teeth at her later in life, it reaffirmed the separation between adult and child. There is a code of conduct for children, including how not to address adults. There's no doubt that we need to re-instill certain values in young people. I get it. I also get that some of that if not all of that played into the events leading up to the altercation between Dollar and his daughter. But the moment the variables of fists and chokes become part of the equation, we've entered a wholly different realm. The discussion of physical discipline is officially over.
I can't come before you and articulate exactly where the line is, separating corrective physical discipline and true child abuse. But I can say, punching and choking are way on the other side of it. This is not one of those gray area discussions. The only discussion in relation to Dollar should be if he's guilty and if so, how long should he go to jail; not whether the child somehow had it coming or whether youth today need more discipline.
Regardless of the circumstances, such a physical response from a grown man could never be deemed proportionate in nature.
Never, not ever.
A grown, healthy man punching and choking a child (by all determinations) is not, was not and will never be an acceptable manner in which to mete out punishment or to deter future disobedience. Not only that, it begs the question as to how severely lacking the parental process was in the years leading up to altercation. You don't arrive at throwing haymakers and making daughters "tap out" MMA-style, overnight. There was a progression of preceding events.
If we as a community wish to discuss the value and virtue of physical discipline in the rearing of children, I'm all for it. Just don't use the alleged actions of Creflo Dollar to help make your case. We should all be able to distinguish between good parenting and inexcusable criminal behavior. If not, then you shouldn't have children (or be ministers); the Dollars included.
Morris W. O'Kelly (Mo'Kelly) is host of The Mo'Kelly Show on KFI AM640 in Los Angeles, political correspondent for the BBC Radio and Television networks and author of the syndicated column The Mo'Kelly Report. For more Mo'Kelly, go to his site. Mo'Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and welcomes all commentary.