Response to Feedback on Performing Good-West-Indian Discipline Online

I’ve been getting lots of feedback on my article entitled Performing Good-West-Indian Discipline Online.  I wanted to respond to and engage with those comments so here goes:

One of the key pieces of feedback I received was that I was complicit in the public shaming and violence against the pre-teen girl by sharing the video on facebook and linking to it on the blog.  One person told me that they same way I would not share a video of a woman being raped I should not share a video of a child being beaten. They insisted that even if the video was shared a million times by others it was disappointing to see it shared here on CODE RED for gender justice.  If we wanted to talk about child abuse surely we could do that without exploiting a 12-year-old girl. I agree.

It took me sometime to come to that agreement though.  Since I have witnessed children being beaten daily in school settings I did not think of that violence in the same way I think of sexual assault.  I understood that it was abuse but part of the way that it was normalised in my mind meant that in some ways I had also minimised it.  I was wrong.

The other key piece of feedback I received was that I was “shaming” readers who said they found the video disgusting and rushing to judgment against them.  Someone suggested that by engaging in such shaming I was complicit in normalising violence against children.  That I found it difficult to believe that the video literally made some people sick to their stomachs says more about me than it does about them.  It says that I have experienced violence against children to be a very common feature of everyday life in the Caribbean.  My original post made that clear.  I was wrong though in suggesting that people who said they were disgusted by the video were lying or seeking to demonstrate “political correctness” on the issue.  I also completely failed to consider that people may witness violence everyday and find it reprehensible, traumatic and stomach-churning every single day.

I am grateful for those who engaged with me even when they disagreed, felt that I was trying to shame them or considered that I was complicit in violence against children.  I feel no need to claim innocence.  In fact, my original article, flaws and all, was precisely about how none of us are innocent.  I wanted to challenge readers to reach beyond seeing this one mother as brutish and violent or as serving up some much-needed tough love in our media-saturated times. In the end, readers challenged me to look inward at my own prejudices, modes of engagement and understanding of violence.

I still have a lot to unpack.  Writing those short lines about witnessing violence in my family was particularly difficult to do.  Codes of family secrecy are strong and are not transgressed without consequences.

I am part of this Caribbean, I am inside it and it is inside me.  All of my writing comes from that complex and complicated place of messy entanglement with whatever I’m trying to understand.  Thank you for pushing me towards greater understanding.



13 thoughts on “Response to Feedback on Performing Good-West-Indian Discipline Online

  1. Thanks, Colin. I felt the criticisms were useful, justified and helped me push beyond the limits of my own thinking and experience. It is useful when we can be engaged and challenged in such a productive way.


  2. Flora says:

    I don’t think that you should feel bad about this. It opens up dialogue and seeking help for both parents and children engaging in such behavior. This should not be taking place in these modern times.


  3. Thanks, Flora. i think that the larger question for those of us with platforms for advocacy and meaningful change in people’s lives is what is the best plan of action for ending such violence against children in homes and schools. What are the alternatives that work and how can we make them work for us?


  4. Thanks for your honesty.. you start talking and yep,, it not easy.. but nuff love.. I hear chirren getting beat.. and sometimes I cant do anything about it.. I watch a lady in mandirs pull she son ears because he bored, fortunately the pandit told her to go outside and get some refreshments.. it is what we tell people about their children.. you know, I sometimes believe Caribbean people friken to love their chirren, because their chirren will be taken away from them.. at some point.. in their memories..that is why it easy to beat and brutalise them.. and then hug them back afterwards and cry sometimes with them..


  5. And it’s pieces like this, even if it’s just for a moment for some of us, which cause us to stop and think about how what we do (or not) affect these issues. There are going to be more videos when you will have to make a judgement call like you did with this one, regarding whether or not you publish it. I hope that you’re challenged either way. It’s a good thing.


  6. Gregory says:

    Interesting indeed and you’ve touched on some very important points that we do need much more discussion on. Child abuse is widespread and needs to be addressed on many fronts but in all instances the prescription cannot be the same and context needs to be weighed in before passing judgement. Agreed that the video can do more damage than good for the child as public shaming like that can do untold damage to a child particularly a pubescent one who is searching for their own identity. We need much more public education on positive parenting, more support services for parents and adolescents and that the education system needs to have an entire course on appropriate internet and smartphone usage given how much it has become part of our lives and medium for expressing ourselves. Education is for life not just exams as they say. We have a long way to go and we must not loose the opportunity to make positive changes when we can and turn these unfortunate events into a catalyst for progressive change in ourselves and the world around us.


  7. Angelique V. Nixon says:

    Thank you Tonya for your courage and for unsilencing painful stories. I feel you on the codes of family secrecy. I too witnessed so much violence growing up… sharing a bit of those stories in my poetry (and reading them in public in the Bahamas) has gotten me into all kinds of trouble and also feelings of shame… but I also have had some people support me in the sharing of my painful stories… about seeing domestic violence and experiencing sexual violence. I have not yet talked about the beatings I experienced as a child in school and in homes. I haven’t been able to do it yet I suppose cause of some the issues you raised… It was just soooo normal… even as we critique it and say how awful it is/was… and now as an adult talking about these issues… the troubling witnessing / experiencing / feeling love wrapped in violence… how does that affect us? I know it affects us deeply and in ways we still haven’t worked through yet. I still workin thru dese tings…
    As Colin said… this work is just hard… too hard… And so yeah I too had to check myself around the normalising of violence: that I read and shared your piece with no second thought to the sharing again of the video — even though I chose not to watch the video. I didn’t think about the circulation of it… and was so focused on what you unsilenced in your first piece and the questions you raised. And so I also felt “checked” reading the comments by Vidya and Natalie… also knowing/feeling deeply how we are all implicated in this violence. One of the reasons I decided long ago to not have any children of my own — has to do with being raised in, experiencing, and still being affected by the violence of my childhood. And so these convos have pushed me too and challenged me… sorry for taking this long to respond… but I been thinking… and now I ready to talk/write more… and work on some new advocacy and new strategies… starting with this unsilencing…


  8. Thank you so much, Angelique, for your openness and willingness to share so generously of yourself and your experiences; and to be so publicly vulnerable. Your words push us towards addressing the issues in ways which may be uncomfortable but which are necessary. i’m with you on thinking through new advocacy strategies and new points of engagement. This willingness to examine how love and violence are woven together in our childhoods provides a productive space from which parents and children can open dialogue. Lot’s of people are saying “she should have talked to her daughter, she should have explained…” As if a relationship in which you process, dialogue and negotiate is something built in an instance. Lot’s of work to do but i’m up for it. Thank you for walking with me.


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