Just stumbled on the news that the Nigerian professor in the US who was charged with child abuse has been sentenced to two years in prison. When the news first broke, I was horrified at some of the things that he was supposed to have done to his child- putting hot pepper juice on various parts of the child's body, putting ants on the child and so on. I was angry when the Nigerian columnist Reuben Abati tried to paint a picture of this poor man maintaining his culture and being oppressed by an insensitive alien US system and I had meant to blog about it or even write a rejoinder. However a number of people beat me to it, including a few who detailed their experiences in Nigeria of what must only pass for cruel and inhuman behaviour regardless of the context. And yet, reading the account of the sentencing I was moved with pity for this man and his family caught in what is indeed a clash between two cultures. I suppose it is the classic migrant's dilemma- how much to hold on to and how much to let go. Read the account and Abati's article here http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/index.php/content/view/4142/46/
Read some of the rejoinders here
Reading the article took me back to a debate about corporal punishment which I had with some Nigerian friends a while back. This was when there was a strong move to ban corporal punishment in the UK and various opinions were being aired. All of us agreed that we had been beaten or smacked as children, but disagreed on whether that had affected us negatively or not. Those of us who said we had not been scarred by the experience were effectively shut up when one of those present, a psychiatrist laughingly said "well you all think you're okay, but are you really?" And we all had to admit that he had a point. Another contributor argued that corporal punishment in a Nigerian context was fine because there were always mediators/moderators to prevent chastisement from escalating into dangerous physical harm. As she put it "The neighbours, the grandparents, the whole community will rush to stop the beating from going too far. The problem with migrants is that that regulatory mechanism is no longer there and so parents are more likely to overstep the mark"
I thought about it all long and hard that evening as I made my way home. Reading this article brought it all back and I wondered if there was not a kernel of truth in her thesis