71 Am. U. L. Rev. 1855 (2022).
This Article uses critical race theory to analyze the impact of corporal punishment and physical child abuse on African American children’s rights in the United States. From an international perspective, the banning of corporal punishment is consistent with multidisciplinary research about the negative effects of physical discipline on children. However, throughout United States history, African American parenting oftentimes utilizes physical discipline to teach children strict compliance with authority in order to prevent deadly violence from being inflicted upon them by white people. Using critical race theory concepts, this Article illustrates how state endorsement of corporal punishment within the family and structural racism within the family regulation system diminishes the parental rights of many African American parents, as well as the rights of African American children. Exploring the thin line between reasonable parental discipline and abuse, this Article concludes that a federal ban on corporal punishment is not enough to protect African American children from harm or maintain their family integrity. When state- sanctioned violence against African American children and adults by police and white citizens is still prevalent, the United States must also recognize and reconcile the legal system’s role in creating communities where African American bodies are often bound by violence and are yet to be freed.
* Professor of Law, Gerald J. Ford Research Faculty Fellow and Robert G. Storey Distinguished Faculty Research Fellow, SMU Dedman School of Law. The research for this Article would not have been possible without a generous research grant from the Joseph M. Knight Endowment Fund. For useful comments on this Article, I would like to thank Jonathan Todres, Shani King, Dr. Lolita Buckner-Inniss, Dr. Beverly Dureus, Robin Lenhardt, Melissa Murray, Martha Minow, Kristin Henning, Clare Huntington, Shanta Trivedi, Sacha Coupet, and the attendees of the Children and the Law Workshop at the University of Connecticut School of Law and the SMU Dedman School of Law Faculty Workshop. Thank you to my research assistants Eniya Richardson and Ambrosia Wilkerson.