A comic’s guide to the Adrian Peterson story

As you watch Jon Stewart’s takedown of the Minnesota Vikings, which he delivered last night, try to recall the assurances of politicians during the stadium debate and Super Bowl 2018 effort that having an NFL team would give Minnesota a national reputation and help “put it on the map.” This isn’t what they had in mind.

“You can’t do something to a 4-year-old, that you’re not allowed to do to a 300 pound lineman in helmet and pads,” he said.

“Actual Vikings don’t treat their children like that.”


Yesterday, the Wilf family uttered “get this right” more than two dozen times in announcing that Peterson was off the team for now.

“An NFL running back left railroad tracks on a 4-year-old’s legs,” Stewart noted. “This isn’t Fermat’s last theorem.”

On a more serious note, the Houston Chronicle scored an interview with Peterson’s mother and provided an answer to a nagging question around Peterson: How many kids does he have?

But she said she’s sure that was never her son’s intent, especially after he had to deal with the death nearly a year ago of one of his own children. Peterson’s 2-year-old son, Tyrese Ruffin, died from severe head injuries. A man who was dating that boy’s mother was indicted on a murder charge in October 2013 and is expected to go to trial next month.

Now Jackson finds herself wanting to protect her extended family — Peterson has six children from different mothers – and concerned about what the future holds for her eldest son.

For nearly a week, the Peterson story has circled a difficult component: race and religion. Today in the New York Times, Michael Eric Dyson went there.

The lash of the plantation overseer fell heavily on children to whip them into fear of white authority. Terror in the field often gave way to parents beating black children in the shack, or at times in the presence of the slave owner in forced cooperation to break a rebellious child’s spirit.

Black parents beat their children to keep them from misbehaving in the eyes of whites who had the power to send black youth to their deaths for the slightest offense. Today, many black parents fear that a loose tongue or flash of temper could get their child killed by a trigger-happy cop. They would rather beat their offspring than bury them.

If beating children began, paradoxically, as a violent preventive of even greater violence, it was enthusiastically embraced in black culture, especially when God was recruited. As an ordained Baptist minister with a doctorate in religion, I have heard all sorts of religious excuses for whippings.
Yet secular black culture thrives on colorful stories of punishment that are passed along as myths of ancient wisdom — a type of moral glue that holds together varying communities in black life across time and circumstance. Black comedians cut their teeth on dramatically recalling “whoopings” with belts, switches, extension cords, hairbrushes or whatever implement was at hand.

Even as genial a comic as Bill Cosby offered a riff in his legendary 1983 routine that left no doubt about the deadly threat of black punishment. “My father established our relationship when I was 7 years old,” Mr. Cosby joked. “He looked at me and says, ‘You know, I brought you in this world, I’ll take you out. And it don’t make no difference to me, cause I’ll make another one look just like you.’ ”

“Adrian Peterson’s brutal behavior toward his 4-year-old son is, in truth, the violent amplification of the belief of many blacks that beatings made them better people, a sad and bleak justification for the continuation of the practice in younger generations,” he writes.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    Like I said the day this happened, we’re not going to like where this story goes.

    • Jack

      I do, for the fact that it sheds light on the filthy disgusting behavior of The Blindside, which includes Sean Hannity’s comment about whether or not we should try to temper the discipline tactics (such as beating your children with tree branches) of our beloved football superstars. For the love of the game…

  • kennedy

    “Today, many black parents fear that a loose tongue or flash of temper could get their child killed by a trigger-happy cop.”

    In the USA in 2012 there were 8,855 homicides with firearms. 95% of the shooters were civilians, not cops. I would suggest that a flash of temper is more likely to get you shot by a civilian than a cop.

    Not intending to hijack the thread on child abuse, but blaming white society (or police violence) for black parents beating their children seems like an attempt to combine unrelated headline issues.

    • Jeff

      What frightens me is that, if you divide the nation into cops and non-cops, that more than 95% of the nation will be in the non-cop group. The fact that cops make up 5% of all homicides means that they are disproportionally represented, or, in other words, you are more likely to get shot by a cop than a non-cop. It makes sense to be more wary of a cop than a non-cop.

      • kennedy

        You are incorrectly interpreting the statistics.

        If an individual is a police officer, they are more likely to shoot someone than if they are not. To put it another way, police officers are more likely to use deadly force than the population average. I suspect they are also more likely to end up in violent situations or armed conflict than the average citizen.

        An individual is 20 times more likely to be killed by a civilian than a police officer.

        • Jeff

          So if I am an black teenage boy I should be more worried about being shot by a stranger than a cop? Think about how many non-cops that boy sees in a day. Think about how many cops that boy sees in a day. As the parent of that child, why wouldn’t I worry about my child getting shot by a cop? As you stated, “police officers are more likely to use deadly force than the population average.” Thus, the smart parent will teach their children to be careful around regular people but especially careful around police officers.

          • johnepeacock

            It’s false logic, since inherently police officers are more likely to be in a situation where some force is required, whereas the average citizen is rarely in that situation.

          • Jeff

            Or, another way to put it is, you are more likely to be shot by a police officer than an average citizen. Thus parents should be more afraid of their child being shot by a cop than a non-cop.

          • Jack

            Yah, Jeff. There is a police procedure to ‘correctly interpret statistics’ on blatant murder and misuse of power.”

          • Jeff

            You all are missing the point. Kennedy seems to think it is foolish for black parents to worry that their children might get shot by a cop. I think it is a valid concern. Kennedy agrees that police officers are more likely to shoot someone than a non-cop. Nobody is saying that police misuse power. What we are talking about is parents worring that their children will be shot by a cop…who is more likely than a non-cop to shot someone. I don’t understand why people would be critical of a parent for having this concern. Feel free to enlighten me.

          • Jack

            I can send you a copy of a police report (my friend willing to offer it for public viewing) that states that the police used 5 officers to hold down a teenager because of their error in handling hand cuffs. In the process of doing this, they tased the teen (a teen under 150 pounds mind you), put a spit hood over his head when they saw foam coming from his mouth. Gee, foaming from the mouth is a symptom of a seizure. The cop induced a seizure from tazing this poor child not once but 2 times. Dear Jeff I would include the concern for our children being murdered by abusing power with misuse of tasers as well.
            The police report was written by an officer of the law and is a written statement that clearly shows police brutality.