A Baltimore mom….

In a digital age, where everything is on an infinite do-loop (wow, now that’s a dated term) one of the images left from the disturbances in Baltimore is that of one mother.  Yes.  That one.  The one in the yellow outfit who went into the crowd to chastise and reclaim her son from the mindlessness of a mob mentality.  Everyone has seen the video, made jokes about her, about him, about the situation.  In many camps, she is a hero.


But not in all.  A column by Stacey Patton caught my attention.  Her article reflects the now three-year string of high-profile deaths of black people at the hands of police or security guards, and that nothing seems to change.  She sees the video of the mother as supporting the idea that “…. black fathers are always absent, and that everything will be fine if an angry black mom just beats the “thug” out of an angry young man”. Hmmm. I’ve read from others how this goes back to the days of the overseer, where the whuppin’s to keep the kid in line were to protect them from the worse beatings of the master.  She concludes with “Beatings are not transformative.  They don’t empower.”  At least the last part of that is true, although I would posture that beatings are transformative….you just don’t know which direction they will go.

I think she misses the point.  The celebration of this mother is NOT for her beating her son (I’d disagree it even qualified as a beating in a true, pain inflicting sense of the word).  We aren’t celebrating her violence.  We are celebrating her willingness to get involved.  We praise her doing something to stop at least the one person she could, from mob violence.  We rejoice in her willingness to support society and values by not trashing the rules, and the home/city section that she lives in.  And at least a couple of people I know, and have read, have celebrated that in his upbringing, he knew enough not to hit her and that he was man enough to accept what he knew he deserved.  This is what the praise is for.  It isn’t a celebration of violence, but of society and the rules that keep it civil.

Are there issues and problems with society? Damn straight there are.  They come from class distinctions that are far too slow in easing.  They come from not realizing the problems are being glossed over, whitewashed (pun intended).  They come from a cultural mores that celebrates “thug life” and easy money.  Is it a simple vision of black and white?  No, because if you look at the white culture, there are militia lovers and separatists and others who have the same dislike for government (albeit for widely divergent reasons) that the blacks do.   The black wearing the “highway 420” sweatshirt is a dangerous thug and druggie while the white who wears it is a harmless stoner.   The white boys playing basketball are exercising, the black ones can do nothing else.  The prejudice is pervasive, there are enough problems in society for both sides.

So I applaud Toya Graham.  I applaud that she cared enough to go get him.  I affirm her desire to have her son live, and to not end up as a statistic.  She did what she needed to, how she needed to, as she need to.

That is what we praise her for.


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