Implications of the Adrian Peterson Case


				<![CDATA[Adrian Peterson, Vikings player]]>

By Michael Gross

[caption id="attachment_4301" align="alignnone" width="300"]Adrian Peterson, Vikings player Adrian Peterson, Vikings player[/caption]

For many of the 33 million people who participate in Fantasy Football, the news of Adrian Peterson’s indictment for child abuse was heartbreaking. Odds are, he was their first-round pick; he was mine.

For football fans, it was a disgrace to see their “good guy” image of Peterson vanish.

And, for everyone else in the world, the accusations were the latest in a string of appalling incidents involving the National Football League (NFL). Earlier that week, star Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was suspended indefinitely after a shocking video surfaced showing the NFL star knocking out his future wife with a punch in February. The difference between the two: no one publicly defended Rice’s actions.

Several NFL players released statements defending Peterson, arguing that is how he, and others in their generation, were raised. Former New England Patriot receiver Dante Stallworth stated, “What’s child abuse in 2014 was normal in the 80s where I grew up and also with people in my age range.” NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkely also came to Peterson’s defense: “I’m from the South […] Whipping – we do that all the time. Every black parent in the South is going to be in jail under those circumstances.” But, is this culture excuse legitimate?

CNN analyst Mel Robbins speaks strongly against it: “There was a culture of slavery and racial segregation in the South; does that mean we should carry it on now? Of course not.” She says that violence against children should be outright illegal.

As disgusting as these stories are, it is legal in every U.S. state for a parent to hit a child as long as it is “reasonable” – a definition that Stallworth, Barkely, and Peterson may interpret differently than those of us fortunate enough to attend the Latin School of Chicago.

Latin and other private schools around the country are often critiqued for being homogeneous communities, where every student is raised in a similar environment. While chances are that the majority of Latin’s student body had a strikingly different childhood than Adrian Peterson, this story has not yielded a one-sided, typical “rich kid” response that some may have expected. Many Latin students are certainly unfamiliar with this type of regimen and are disgusted at how their athletic idol could conduct such vial behavior.

However, while senior head of Black Student Union Patrick Elliot has never been “spanked,” he is definitely not unfamiliar with the idea. He thinks what Peterson did was wrong, but ultimately a reflection of his background. And, while “[he] nor most of the black kids he knows ever went through that, the generation before [them] did involve that kind of discipline.”

Outside of Latin, the talk of this “culture excuse” has become largely associated with race. Peterson, as well as Stallworth, Barkley, and the majority of those defending him, are black, leading many of the predominantly white critics to jump to the conclusion that this is how blacks are raised, not necessarily just any kid from the South. A 2011 study done by the University of Texas at Austin showed that African-American parents are more likely to spank their children than Hispanic or White parents. Given the ever-present racial tension in the U.S., one can only hope that Adrian Peterson does not become a symbol for black male oppression.

Looking past the racial tinge, the aftermath of Peterson’s case has morphed into more of a discussion of changing standards of parenting than a personal attack. When most of Generation X refers to the “good old days,” images of unsupervised children running around carelessly in parks come to mind. Stories of children beaten with belts and sticks are not as popular.

Today, it is rare to find unsupervised children in parks or walking alone to the neighborhood candy store. As evident by the recent news surrounding Peterson, the days of child abuse are far from over. In the 1995 Gallup Survey, data revealed “50% of US parents still spank at least once a month, 20% still hit their children with a “hard object” and 5% slapped their children on the face.” 19 years later – this past March – a University of Michigan study concluded that 30% of 1-year-old children were spanked at least once by their parents in the past month.

Following the results of the Michigan study, it seemed clear that a decent portion of children around the country would continue to be spanked for years to come. But, after Peterson’s indictment and the negative press ensuing, it is possible that Generation X’s cultural trademark is coming to an end. Will this “cultural excuse” survive yet another generation?

Let’s see how our media role models – the professional athletes, organizations, and associations – handle the next inevitable case. We know that the reactions at Latin will certainly be dynamic.]]>