Can Black Parents’ "Tough Love" Be Toxic? The Dangers Of Passing On Generational Trauma

"I think we have to be honest and say that at some point 'tough love' is just abuse!"

They say it's a thin line between love and hate, and the same can go for love and hurt. But at what point do parents cross the line when disciplining their children? Is it time to speak before we spank?

Recently on Black Coffee, special guest and television personality, Jamila Mustafa, joined the cast to touch on a sensitive topic that has impacted the Black community for ages- toxic parenting.

During an in-depth conversation on tough love, Mustafa, along with hosts Marc Lamont Hill, Gia Peppers and Jameer Pond, viewed a clip from reality-tv star Blac Chyna's latest show, which also stars her mother, Tokyo Toni. In the short clip, Chyna and Tokyo can be seen nearly coming to blows during a heated debate, with Toni going as far as to refer to her daughter as a "B*tch," while also offering up threats to whoop Chyna’s "a** across the kitchen."

The 31-year-old mother of both King Cairo Stevenson and Dream Kardashian has since come forward to offer up her own parenting advice, in light of the intense trailer going viral.

Fans also took to social media to weigh in their thoughts on Chyna and Tokyo's relationship, as well as their feelings on harsh toxic parenting in general.


After the clip, host Pond chimed in on Chyna and Tokyo's volatile relationship, while also mirroring it to other households that host the same level of hostility.

"You're passing on generational trauma. [Chyna] is exhibiting the same kind of behavior that her mom is exhibiting towards her. That's a theme in the Black community- passing on generational trauma- because that's how you grew up, or that was expected. So if your mom whooped your behind, now you gotta whoop your kids behind [too]," Pond stated.

The host then offered up a remedy to the solution, pointing out that with any bad habit, awareness is key to remedying the problem.

"You don't have to embody that generational trauma, especially if you know it's toxic. If you have awareness, you should start to make the change in how you walk and talk and speak," Jameer continued. 

"As Black people we are taught to be resilient and taught to have a high threshold of pain, because it 'builds up character,' but that's not healthy. We're human, and so we carry all that baggage with us throughout [our lives] and that's what creates generational trauma."

Host Hill, who is also father to one teenage daughter, pointed out that although toxic parenting is an issue in our community, it is not a problem exclusive only to Black families.

"Obviously generational trauma [and] toxic parenting aren't just in the Black community. Every community has them, but I do think that there are very particular things that our community struggles with as well. Coming out of slavery, coming out of our own abuse, and our own oppression. I think that there are ways we navigate parenting sometimes for good reason, even if it's the wrong end."

When the dialogue moved from verbal and emotional abuse (with Mustafa revealing that her own father once called her a "Jezebel," for wearing red lipstick),  to actual physical abuse, a debate on spanking arose. While most of the cast agreed that conflict resolution between parent and child need not resort to violence on most occasions, everyone admitted that they'd all been physically disciplined at one point in their lives.

"I was getting soft-spanked, but I needed it," the TRL-host admitted.

Peppers then shared her own stories about her mother's disciplinary actions, but confessed she also felt that the discipline was necessary.

"I got spanked [but] I never felt like it was too much. When I got spanked, I was acting a fool,” Peppers said.  "I wasn't [getting] beat, but mom's had a heavy hand. She didn't need nothing. No belt. Nothing. My dad never spanked us. It was always mom." 

Peppers then revealed how gender played a role in her mother being the designated disciplinarian for her, and her parents wanting to avoid normalizing the concept of a man hitting a woman.

"My mom was always the disciplinarian, especially with the girls in our family. My dad was a little bit more intentional with disciplining my brothers, but out of respect because [I'm] a woman, he was very intentional about [not hitting me]. 

"So my mom knew she had to be hard on me, because I was a mean kid. I was just stank. So she didn't necessarily do it in all circumstances, but if there were times when I was flat out wrong, she would absolutely have to do that."

According to a 2015 survey from Pew Research, Black parents are more than twice as likely than White and Latino parents to resort to corporal punishment on their children, on a regular basis. They are also more likely to spank their kids.

However, while hitting one's child is noted as common in Black households, it is not an intrinsic cultural tradition. As a matter of fact, it is believed that the idea of physical punishment between Black parent and child, is more so a conditioned habit from past oppression.

Host Hill touched on the topic a bit more, while calling out the concept of "tough love," as anything but love, but rather, just plain old abuse.

"Part of what Black people have been taught is that the world is so cold to us and so bad to us, that we want to insulate our children. So [parents think], 'I'm gonna whip your ass so you can be scared of me and follow my direction, so if you follow my direction, then I can protect you from the outside world. If you follow rules and orders and discipline, the police won't get you,’ and that becomes the logic of what we call,' tough love,'" Hill said.

"I think we have to be honest and say that at some point 'tough love,' is just abuse. That verbal abuse, emotional abuse and physical abuse is just that, and no amount of appealing to slavery, or racist police or the oppressive job market is going to make that any different. There is a way to parent without abuse. And we have to begin to own and accept that."

Watch Jamila Mustafa and the Black Coffee crew dig deeper into the discussion of Black parenting and more in the full episode here.

Be sure to tune in for new episodes of Black Coffee, live every weekday, 10am EST, only on BET's official Twitter & Facebook!

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