A USA Today columnist found himself in hot water after writing an incredibly offensive line in a piece analyzing Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s child abuse case.
Writer Pete Dougherty had the audacity to suggest that Peterson, who is black, hit his son with a tree branch or “switch” back in 2014 because he is a descendent of slaves, Mic reports.
In September 2014, Peterson was indicted for child abuse against his 4-year-old son, leaving bruises and lacerations on the toddler’s back, buttocks, arms, and legs.
In November of the same year, Peterson pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of misdemeanor reckless assault and was ordered to complete 80 hours of community service and pay a $4,000 fine.
"Let's ... not forget that Peterson likely is descended from slaves who suffered savage disciplinary beatings generation after generation after generation," Dougherty wrote about the incident. "It excuses nothing but also can't be ignored. This is learned behavior."
The logic behind the writer’s remarks is not only racist and stereotypical, but totally tone-deaf. The notion of using slavery as an explanation for child abuse is simply absurd. Furthermore, child abuse is a crime committed among all races and ethnicities, regardless of ancestral history.
The paragraph has since been removed from the column and replaced with an editor’s note that apologizes to readers who were offended by the statements.
“A paragraph in an earlier version of Pete Dougherty's column that included a reference to Peterson's punishment of his 4-year-old son being connected to America's history of slavery was removed. It was poorly reasoned and insensitive. We apologize to all readers who were offended.”
Dougherty’s commentary wasn’t only insensitive, but greatly flawed. How does he explain the millions of African-American descendants of slaves who do not abuse their children?
Or, was he insinuating that all black people beat their children? If that is the underlying implication Dougherty was making, then he clearly didn't research the statistics.
As Mic points out, child abuse statistics suggest that rates between black parents who abuse their children and white parents who do the same differ by a mere 5 percent.
Dougherty also failed to note whether this same logic applies to white child abusers who, in the era of slavery, would have been the ones delivering the barbaric beatings that apparently lead to Peterson’s mistreatment of his toddler son.
It should be noted that it sounds equally as ridiculous when imagining Peterson as a white man. In that case, the excerpt would have read:
“Let's ... not forget that Peterson likely is descended from [slave owners] who [inflicted] savage disciplinary beatings generation after generation after generation. It excuses nothing but also can't be ignored. This is learned behavior.”
Let’s hope we don’t begin to see white and black parents accused of abusing their children try to use this ideology as their defense in the courtroom.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Tom Lynn