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What Happened to You PDF

What happened to you PDF

 “Stop your crying,” she would warn. “You better hush your mouth.” My face settled into stoic. My heart stopped racing. Biting hard into my lower lip so no words would escape me. “I do this because I love you,” she’d repeat her defense in my ear. As a young girl, I was “whupped” regularly. At the time, it was accepted practice for caregivers to use corporal punishment to discipline a child. My grandmother, Hattie Mae, embraced it. But even at three years old, I knew that what I was experiencing was wrong.

One of the worst beatings I recall happened on a Sunday morning. Going to church played a major role in our lives. Just before we were to leave for service, I was sent to the well behind our house to pump water; the farmhouse where I lived with my grandparents did not have indoor plumbing. From the window, my grandmother caught a glimpse of me twirling my fingers in the water and became enraged. Though I was only daydreaming, innocently, as any child might, she was angry because this was our drinking water and I had put my fingers in it. She then asked me if I had been playing in the water and I said “no.” She bent me over and whipped me so violently, my flesh welted. Afterward, I managed to put on my white Sunday-best dress; blood began to seep through and stain the crisp fabric a deep crimson. Livid at the sight, she chastised me for getting blood on my dress, then sent me to Sunday school. In the rural South, this is how black children were raised. There wasn’t anyone I knew who wasn’t whupped.

I was beaten for the slightest reasons. Spilled water, a broken glass, the inability to keep quiet or still. I heard a black comedian once say, “The longest walk is to get your own switch.” I not only had to walk to get the switch, but, if there wasn’t one available, I had to go find one—a thin, young branch worked best, but if it was too thin I would have to braid two or three together to make it stronger. She often forced me to help her braid the switch. Sometimes the whuppings would get saved up for Saturday night when I was naked and freshly bathed. 

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