While the media seems largely focused on the fact that the Minnesota Vikings finally decided to bench its star running back, a more important—and politically incorrect—question needs to be asked:
Did Adrian Peterson’s religious beliefs and cultural background as an African American contribute to him beating and injuring his son?
Many details about the case have been well publicized and have not been denied by Peterson: Last spring, he “disciplined” his four-year-old son at his Houston home by stuffing leaves in his mouth and hitting him repeatedly with the branch of a tree or “switch.” The boy was also reportedly beaten with a belt. The “whoopings,” as Peterson called them, resulted in the boy sustaining lacerations, bruises, and welts on his legs, arms, buttocks, and genitals. Upon questioning, the child told his mother that Peterson “likes belts and switches and has a whooping room.”
After intense public pressure, the cancellation of a major NFL sponsor, apparent threats by other companies to cancel sponsorship, and the news that Peterson had been accused of abusing another son in 2013 (Peterson was not charged in that case), the Vikings dramatically changed course. Initially, after Peterson was indicted on child abuse charges, the Vikings had him sit out one game and then allowed him to rejoin the team. After the public outcry, officials barred him from all team activities. Some predict he will never again wear a Vikings jersey.
Now, statistics on the use of corporal punishment in conservative Christian households and those in the African American community are raising questions as to whether Peterson’s religious beliefs and cultural background fueled his ideology about the need to control his son’s behavior in this way and, ultimately, to injure him.
I’m not aware of any studies that show that children in one faith or racial group are more at risk for abuse than others, but there is reason to believe that children who are physically punished are more at risk for being physically abused than children who are not physically punished. Studies show that a vast majority of child abuse is delivered in the midst of adults using corporal punishment. Furthermore, children are more likely to be injured when parents use corporal punishment frequently or use implements to spank children.