By NICK CHILES
As the saying goes, you don’t need a license to be a parent. Almost anybody can do it. But that doesn’t mean, however, that everybody should do it. This came to mind when I stepped into the furor surrounding the 10-year-old rapper, Lil Poopy, and the ridiculously inappropriate aura his father has created around him, including videos posted on Youtube—which have since been taken down— featuring him smacking scantily clad women on the ass, and performances with a group called the “Coke Boys,” earning about $7,500 a performance, according to his father, Luis Rivera.
It was all too much for the police department in Brockton, Massachusetts, which filed a complaint with the state requesting that the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families investigate the father for possible abuse or neglect of a child.
“It’s a bit much for a 9-year-old. It warrants the attention of the Department of Children and Families,” police Lt. David Dickinson told the News Enterprise in Massachusetts. [Lil Poopy recently turned 10.]
It’s not often that we get to publicly witness bad parenting at such epic levels, in a place where we can all share in the shock and awe. Normally we might try to describe the moment to friends and family when we stumbled upon some tragically painful parenting scene at the Walmart or Kroger, desperately trying to remember every lurid detail so that friends and family can share in our horror. But Mr. Rivera and his boy, Luis Jr., aka Lil Poopy, posted tributes to his bad parenting all over Youtube.
I’m not advocating that the authorities smash down Mr. Rivera’s door under the dark of night and drag Poopy away to some institution, where he will be subject to the daily abuse of Nurse Ratched and her evil twin, Miss Trunchbull (a nugget for fans of Matilda). But certainly Mr. Rivera’s parenting judgment rises to the level of needing to answer a few questions. After all, that’s what child protective services are all about, protecting children from bad parenting situations, insuring that a little one isn’t being abused mentally, physically, psychologically or emotionally.
We tend to focus most of our energies on the physical when we’re talking about child abuse. But surely anybody who has ever been the subject of constant bullying or verbal mistreatment, particularly at the hands of a parent, knows abuse comes in many forms—and the effects can be just as long-lasting even if no one ever lays a hurtful hand on you.
I think we need to be especially careful when we’re talking about the emotional well-being of little boys. Because we tend to treat boys as miniature men in our society, particularly in the African-American and Latino communities, where we don’t spend nearly enough time tending to the emotional states of our little boys. We don’t allow them to even have an emotional life, to emote when necessary, to express their anguish or fear or psychological pain in healthy and socially acceptable ways. All we need do is look at all the black and brown faces in our prisons to see the unfortunate results of this neglect.
When the subject matter is of a sexual nature, we are even more dismissive of possible damage to our boys. We still think statutory rape isn’t really a big deal when it’s an older woman and a younger boy—in some quarters we might even call the boy “lucky” to have been gifted with a sexual relationship with a hot older woman. Of course the reactions are monumentally different when the young person is a girl—but with boys, we just wave it off. He’ll be fine.
But the tales are legion of men like music legend James Brown talking about the damage that was done to him growing up in a whorehouse, seeing the things he was allowed to see at much too early an age, destroying any hope of having a healthy view of sexuality as a grown man.
There’s no way any of us would countenance Luis Rivera putting a 9-year-old daughter in sexy music videos, mimicking sexualized behavior with grown men. But a 9-year-old boy? Aw, he’ll be alright. He’s just having fun.
This is what his father actually told the News Enterprise in response to questions about the inappropriateness of his son smacking grown women on the ass: “When you hit a home run, when you go to the bleachers, they tap you on the butt,” Rivera said. “He’s not doing anything wrong.”
Sounds like dude needs a couple of lessons in child development. Even in 2013, there are some things that should be off-limits to 9-year-olds. And if a parent doesn’t understand that, then maybe he needs to have a very uncomfortable conversation with the authorities. Maybe he’ll even learn a few things.
Editor’s Note: Check out Denene on HLN’s Raising America, giving her commentary on Lil Poopy and the controversy surrounding the child abuse investigation into his father and the pint-sized rapper’s videos.
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Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.