I have spoken many times about being beaten with a belt when I was a child and how much it continues to traumatize me to this day. I know that this happened with a doubt and yet I have blocked much of it out. What I remember most clearly, is the sound of my brother’s screams when he was being beaten. I remember how the sound ripped through the house and that there was nowhere to hide, as the belt hit his flesh, causing him to release the sound of anguish from the depths of his being. I remember my own fear and the sure knowledge that not only could I not save him, I could not do anything to protect myself. To this day, I tell my children that I will have neither physical or emotional violence in my home for any reason.
Recently, Katherine and Joe Jackson did an interview with Oprah Winfrey. Oprah directly challenged the Jacksons on the reports that I am going to refer as child abuse, because that is exactly what they were. When evasion did not work, Joe and Catherine expressed pride in their actions. I am going to place all further discussion about the interview and my reaction below the fold, because of the potential to trigger.
Oprah: Do you think he was afraid of you?
Joe Jackson: I don’t think he was afraid. You know what he was afraid of what he might do something wrong and I chastise him not beat him. I never beat Michael like the media charges. That never happened
Oprah: He told me, you know I did that interview with him in 1993 and he told me that you beat him.
Joe Jackson: Well I’m glad that he was raised in such a way, he was liked all over the world. He could have been like some of the other kids we are dead from Gary, or doing a lot of drugs or in jail.
Oprah: So let’s just establish this, you know I was raised, I was beaten as a kid, because that was the culture, that was the way we were raised. And so was that the way that you raised your children?
Joe Jackson: Beat or wippin?
Katherine Jackson: Same thing
Oprah: It’s the same thing when you have welts on your back.
Joe Jackson: (incomprehensible) when you say beat.
Oprah: So you’re taking issue with the word beat right?
Joe Jackson: I’m taking (incomprehensible) with the word whip.
Oprah: Whipped. So what would you say that you used to discipline your children?
Catherine Jackson: You might as well admit it
Catherine Jackson: That’s way that Black people raise their children.
Oprah: Yes, I’m just asking you – you can answer that for me whether or not he used the strap.
Catherine Jackson: He used the strap.
Oprah: yes he did
Catherine Jackson: Yes he did use the strap.
Oprah: Let me just ask you this, knowing what you know now, do you think that you would do it differently? Do you think you would be a different type of father?
Joe Jackson: I, I, would punish them by whipping them with a strap or something it would have kept them out of trouble, out of jail. My kids never been in jail before. 9 kids never been in jail
Oprah: (claps her hands) That’s a good thing. Hello, that’s great.
Joe Jackson: And that’s great.
Oprah: Do you regret those strappings on your children?
Joe Jackson: No I don’t.
Oprah: You don’t regret it.
Joe Jackson: I kept them out of jail you know and I raised them right and they’s good kids all the way
Just as she did during the Micheal’s childhood, Catherine sat next to his abuser. She even went as far as to defend his behaviour saying that it is cultural. Much of the conversation regarding the abuse in the Jackson family has fixated on the role that Joe played. From their admission, he absolutely was physically abusive, but he could not have been this way, without the support of Catherine Jackson. By the time the family had moved to California, Catherine could have afforded to divorce him. Unlike many women who live with abusers, her choice would not have been to tolerate the behaviour or stay in a shelter, but yet she chose to stay married to this man. If Joe Jackson is an abuser, then so is Catherine, because she clearly was complicit in it.
Michael at one point said that he was so afraid of his father that he used to “regurgitate in his mouth,” and this is what Joe Jackson is proud of. The suggestion that the Jackson children did not got to jail, because Joe beat them is absolutely ridiculous. It implies that parents who are not physically abusive, are shirking their responsibility to discipline their children. Perhaps, the real reason the Jackson children did not got to jail is because as Michael said many times, he didn’t have a childhood. When would they have had to time to have any experiences, let alone get into trouble, when he was forever practicing them with a belt? Joe didn’t beat the children to discipline them, but to turn them into his meal ticket. Surely Catherine knows that yet she still sits by his side all of these years later. Honestly, the two of them disgust me.
I think it was great that Oprah got them both to admit that there was violence in the home, but I think it was terrible that she did not tell them how wrong what they did was. They may be senior people but Catherine is the guardian to Micheal’s children. Does another generation of children need to go through this? We already know that Joe loves publicity and the first opportunity that he has, he will try and exploit these kids.
When Oprah failed to acknowledge the absolute wrong of their actions, it made me worry that people will not see it for the horror that it is. Here are two people saying that the secret to their children’s success was the abuse they used as discipline. Children are already a vulnerable class of people and many parents think nothing of administering a beating and calling it discipline. How many will see this as a validation of the physical violence in their homes? There is never an excuse to be physically violent with a child. Michael Jackson proves that despite all of his success, that it comes with life long consequences. Is this really you want for your children?
Every time I hear spanking explained away or justified it enrages me because I know that it reinforces the idea that children do not have the right to bodily safety. Children are vulnerable and they need our protection, guidance and love — what they don’t need to is be beaten. An act of violence does not come out of love; it comes from anger and it reinforces hierarchy and coercive power. Katherine Jackson said that it was cultural and to the extent that children are universally devalued this is true, but every parent has a choice to make when it comes to corporal punishment. Please choose not to spank your child.