Excerpted from Black Rage, Basic Books, Inc., New York, 1968. Pages 137-8.
The black parent approaches the teacher with the great respect due a person of learning. The soaring expectations which are an important part of the parent's feelings find substance in the person of the teacher. Here is the person who can do for this precious child all the wonderful things a loving parent cannot. The child is admonished to obey the teacher as he would his parents and the teacher is urged to exercise parental prerogatives, including beating. In this the parent yields up his final unique responsibility, the protection of his child against another's aggression. The child is placed in the teacher's hands to do with as she sees fit, with the sole requirement that she teach him. The meaning of this gift is not lost on the teacher, who is alternately touched by the parent's trust and staggered by the responsibility, for the teacher knows best of all that much has gone on before she gets the child and knows that, even as the parent urges her not to spare the rod, that same parent is telling volumes about the life that child has led up to this moment. The parent tells of a child both beloved and beaten, of a child taught to look for pain from even those who cherish him most, of a child who has come to feel that beatings are right and proper for him, and of a child whose view of the world, however gently it persuades him to act toward others, decrees for him that he is to be driven by the infliction of pain.
Pity that child.
Beating in child-rearing actually has its psychological roots in slavery and even yet black parents will feel that, just as they have suffered beatings as children, so it is right that their children be so treated. This kind of physical subjugation of the weak forges early in the mind of the child a link with the past and, as he learns the details of history, with slavery per se.