Ramble: Why It’s Not Funny

by pronounced "ahhh" like a sigh

Every day on Twitter seems to be another descent into pure fuckery. As you know, I love Twitter. I think at it’s core, it is an amazing sociological experiment. Give a bunch of strangers 140 characters and  a relative veil of anonymity (even if they’re well known) and see what happens. I’ve been on Twitter since June of 2008. As many know, I had a personal account for a long time. I deleted it a few months ago in favor of the official twitter of my live interactive traveling show, http://www.basseyworld.com. My initial twitter experience was unproductive. I didn’t really understand the understated dangers of Twitter and as someone who lives with a mental illness, it absolutely brought out the most manic and impulsive sides of me. I was tweeting things and people that I really shouldn’t have. In retrospect, a lot of the personal things I was going through at the time were manifesting themselves in a negative way on Twitter. I was tweeting too much, too fast, too personal and talking about things going on in my personal life that were better suited to conversations with close friends or a personal diary.

That aside, Twitter is also a place for people with various differences or similarities to convene in a neutral setting. I make it a point not to follow celebrities or “public figures” unless I know them personally or have interacted with them enough to see the humanity outside of their profession. Let’s just say I only follow 4 celebs and leave it like that.

Last night on Twitter, noted African-American public figures,  engaged in what at first appeared to be a lighthearted debate about spanking as a means to discipline children. I’ve written about my personal views on corporal punishment here ( #mce_temp_url#) but was interested in the discussion between two prominent men. Toure  was on “Team No Spanking” while Martin was on “Team Whip Dat Ass”. I took issue with “Team Whip Dat  Ass’s”  take on things. I don’t follow him but I went to his page to get a handle on what exactly his point was. What I saw was a failed attempt at comedy. He retweeted many of his followers giving examples of when and why they would “Whip dat ass”. Many of the examples (such as when they drink they last of the Kool-Aid) being nothing but child abuse and incredibly offensive.  I was unnerved by the RTs and how the issue of disciplining children was being played for horrific laughs. I believe that how you discipline your child is up to you. I was spanked as a child but choose not to spank my child.  But I will go on record as saying that when I was “Beaten”, I felt as though my mere presence was enough to incite rage. I didn’t feel the love or the discipline and I will always remember the fear.

What I do not understand as a black woman is this idea that “whippings” and”Beatings” are things that should be played for laughs or doled out like praise in the African American community.

With the  number of child abuse cases, many of which lead to the death of small children, playing themselves out across the country, why would a noted “journalist” choose to make light of such a potentially serious incident. A few of the (amazing) people I follow, challenged Martin and his flip way of discussing the beating of children for the purpose of discipline. Again, not spanking, not a swat on the backside or the back of a hand but “Team Whip Dat Ass”. Listing examples of when they would be “whipped” or “beaten” that were so asinine that the joke was lost for many. Martin as I’ve witnessed through personal appearance and the hilariously pathetic tales of close friends, doesn’t take criticism well. As I laughed and RTed (admittedly juvenile jokes about Martin’s ascot and lack of neck.), I also tweeted about how dangerous it is to use this kind of language when discussing the discipline of our children. I was disgusted with Mr. Martin’s flippant attitude and told him as much. I was then treated to a tweet about how if I and a twitter friend (@steenfox) get “out of line” that we would be part of “Team Whip Dat Ass” as well. Ha. Ha. Ha?

Really, Mr. Martin. The way to confront those who disagree with you on a public forum is to threaten to “whip” them. Forgive my colloquialism but, “Negro, you don’t know me like that.” I do not find violence funny. I find threats of violence unforgivable. But I’m a grown woman. If Mr. Martin would like to “whip my ass”, I’d like to see him try. But that is not the issue, the issue is finding comedy in something as serious as child abuse. According to ChildHelp, “Almost five children die everyday as a result of child abuse. More than three out of four are under the age of 4.” Ha ha ha? I’m not saying that everyone who chooses to spank their child is abusing them, that’s not my point, my point is that those who do do not do so lightheartedly. And they sure as hell know the difference between whipping and spanking. One is done from a position of loss of control and anger. The other from a place of discipline. The tweets in Martin’s timeline was making a mockery of a very serious issue.

As a mental health advocate, I find it disturbing that the use of ‘beatings’ to discipline is not full investigated when it comes to mental health cases. Many children with social anxiety or many other undiagnosed illnesses are usually beaten for being “different” than other children. Adults who were beaten (not spanked. Beaten.) as children grow up to have mental illnesses triggered by said abuse. Or they grow up with a distinct inability to manage their emotions. This is something that plagues the African American community. Abuse is not funny. Since yesterday’s twitter back and forth, I’ve heard numerous stories of how beatings from parents or grandparents have severely affected folks into adulthood. I have had close friends who well into their 30s are still affected by the abuse they endured and conflicted by the lingering feelings of low self esteem and low self worth because they were also told they were being “disciplined” for being “bad” or drinking the last bit of orange juice and inciting rage in their parent.

It’s not funny. And when your are confronted with how “unfunny” it is and you a “noted journalist” (though I’m sure Shirley Sherrod might differ), rather than apologize or correct the language or behaviour, choose the ‘learn to take a joke” route, I wonder if the children who didn’t feel the joke but felt the sting of belts, trees, cords and whips will find the humor in the “Joke”.

Ha ha ha?

Forgive me for my absence. There’s a lot of wonderful things going on. I wish this wasn’t the subject I chose to come back on but I went to bed with it on my heart and woke up troubled. Thinking of so many people I love who still bare the stings and lashes of childhood abuse who can’t or won’t write in their defense. I’m here to tell you why it’s not funny.

Love someone and mean it,