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.