Areva Martin brought in the specter of Jim Crow on Monday's Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN, as she commented on the child abuse case against NFL player Adrian Peterson. Martin contended that "corporal punishment, in any form, is abusive," and emphasized, "We used to not wear helmets when we rode bikes. Women used to smoke when they were pregnant. We used to send our kids to segregated schools. So, there are a lot of things we did twenty and thirty years ago that we now know are hurtful and harmful." [MP3 audio available here; video below]
The attorney later cited her personal experience of riding her bike without a helmet as a kid, and cited unnamed researchers to support her assertion:
AREVA MARTIN, LEGAL AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: ...My parents put me on a bike without a helmet. That was dangerous then; it's dangerous now. They didn't know any better...but we know better. We have the data; we have the statistics; we have the studies that confirm that there are long-term, psychological/emotional scars from hitting children. So, we can't bury our heads in the sand on this. We have to accept that data; accept the harm it's done to kids; and just stop hitting. We tell five-year-olds, no hitting. We criminalize assaults by adults on other adults. So we can't accept an adult hitting a child, when we don't accept an adult hitting an adult.
Earlier in the panel discussion segment, host Anderson Cooper turned to Martin and noted that "Peterson...believes this type of discipline prevented him from being lost in the streets, and contributed to his success." The guest replied to this with an initial attack on corporal punishment:
MARTIN: Well, he may have been not lost in the street, Anderson, but clearly, he's repeating the cycle of violence. And what we now know is that parents who are hit and – you know, treat their kids with abusive behavior – likely have been abused themselves as kids. And, you know, the reality is all things lawful are not expedient. So, the fact that it may be lawful in the State of Texas to use corporal punishment doesn't make it the right thing to do.
And everyone's talking about Adrian Peterson. I want to stand up for that 4-year-old child. I was hit as a child. For Adrian to say he was hit and somehow, that's right – it was wrong when my mom hit me; my dad hit me; when Adrian's parents hit him – and it's wrong today. To hit a child – to use corporal punishment, in any form, is abusive, and long-term scars happen as a result of that, Anderson.
CNN political commentator and New York Times columnist Charles Blow also criticized spanking as a form of disciplining children:
CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's the lazy way – right?..you say you were punished for a week and you can't have the Nintendo or whatever you're playing, that actually takes you as the parent engaging for the entire length of the punishment. This kind of spanking – brutal kind of whipping – takes 30 seconds – a minute – and you're done. So...it's kind of a lazy, easy way out.
The remaining panelist, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, tried to distinguish between spanking and the injuries Peterson allegedly inflicted on his child:
JEFFREY TOOBIN: We can have an interesting discussion about corporal punishment and spanking, and that's really an issue for parents to decide. When it gets to these sorts of wounds, this is not an issue for parents. This is an issue for law enforcement. And, you know, so I think we really need to draw a distinction here. This is not a case about spanking. This is a case about a kid with serious injuries.
Cooper himself brought slavery into the discussion at one point during the discussion. Blow took the opportunity to criticize corporal punishment in the black community:
COOPER: There was a columnist for The Grio who said that it's a longstanding, African-American institution – quote, 'both feared and revered.' Basically, I think making, sort of, a reference back to slavery.
BLOW: I think there are a lot of people who believe that that's true....and I think that – and that is also a part of the sadness of it – that for – you know, for so many years, there's been a tremendous amount – disproportionate amount of violence visited on black bodies. And for us to then internalize that and take that into our homes, and then, say that that is the way – the only way that we can succeed; that's the only way that we can be made to behave – that's not the signal you want to make.