DARE TO ASK: Is lifting kids by the arms a racial
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Why do African-American women pick up their babies by one arm? Are they aware
they can dislocate the shoulder?
I hate anyone picking up a young child like that, and I do not pay attention
to the race of the offender. My mother has always said the same thing: she hates
to see that, too.
Moni, black, Fort Myers
I've seen women of many different cultures do this. I am guilty of it. I have
20-month-old triplet cousins, and when I'm caring for them and two want to be
picked up and you're trying to get things done, I swing them up on my hip. I've
never done it to an infant because you can hurt them, but toddlers are more
Asia D., 21, black, Phoenix
The black females you've seen doing this are usually the single, very young,
untrained "baby's mommas" who are too ignorant of proper child care or too
stubborn to learn. By the way, I've seen this done by black and white single
Brad, black, Winchester, Va.
Rest assured the country isn't crawling with kids in pain as you read this
because their moms yanked on their arms and dislocated their shoulders.
Subluxated their elbows, sure. But dislocated their shoulders? Nah.
"It's called nursemaid's elbow," said Denise Dowd, chief of injury prevention
at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. "You can pull the bone out of
place. You'll know something's wrong because the kid will not use the arm -
it'll hang there."
Such a partial dislocation, mostly caused by someone tugging hard on or
pulling the child up by one arm, usually has to be put back in place in the
"We twist the arm back in. There's no medication. We see it hundreds of times
It's not restricted to African-American kids, she said.
"It can happen to anyone; pediatricians don't typically teach parents about
Wilma Ann Anderson's point, exactly.
The publisher of Mahogany Baby Web-zine for black parents, and a mother of
four, Anderson says lack of education is the likely culprit when parents err
with their offspring.
"I don't see it as an African-American thing. Folks in general do what they
know. If you haven't been introduced to new ways of doing things" (such as not
subluxating an elbow, we presume) "then it's very uncommon you would start
implementing these things."
Black parents do tend to discipline more harshly than white parents, she
said, but it varies from person to person.
"It's been a theme passed down for generations among black families, and it's
biblically based . . . that it's OK to be physical with the child when
reprimanding. But many black families are going against that, using the white
mom 'timeout' system - which I personally thought I never would use, but I said
'Hey, let me give it a try.' You implement what works."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers, or mail to
Phillip Milano, c/o The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL
32231. Include contact information. For Dare to Ask podcasts, go to
Jacksonville.com keyword: milano.