Why I don’t believe Toya Graham is Mother of the Year

Why I don’t believe Toya Graham is Mother of the Year April 29, 2015

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A recent video from Baltimore has gone viral. The video shows Toya Graham hitting her teenage son, allegedly for throwing rocks at the police. Her act of aggression has her lauded as “the world’s best mom.” Most of the comments I have seen on the video, from various websites, praise her disciplinary tactics, most of which revolve around the theme “we need more parents to do this.”

Do we? When I watch the video, I don’t see the world’s greatest mother. What I see is a woman so incredibly frustrated that she has completely lost control of herself. Graham, incensed by her son’s behavior, strikes him on the face 4 times. That isn’t discipline, it is assault. However, given the seemingly unending barrage of stories about black Americans being killed by police officers, it is easy to understand how her fears could translate into violent action. We humans are nothing more than fallible primates, subject at times to our more base instincts – like the instinct to protect our children from being shot by trigger-happy police officers.

I am not going to try to understand where black Americans are coming from. As a white person, I think that would be impossible, not to mention somewhat arrogant. However, I will say is this: black Americans have every historical, cultural, and economic reason not to trust the authorities. If you do not agree with that statement, then please stop reading this blog right now and go pick up an American History book.

If you agree with Graham’s actions towards her son, you must also sympathize with rioters like him who, because of their own fears and frustrations, lash out at police. Both are people so incredibly frustrated that they have lost control of themselves. What else are these protests-turned-riots if not a marginalized community lashing out at a government that will not listen any other way? Some food-for-thought: Martin Luther King’s nonviolent tactics worked because they juxtaposed peaceful demonstrators with heavy-handed police brutality, creating martyrs for the cause and increasing public sympathy. Situations like Baltimore, and Ferguson before it, are what happens when an entire class of people grows tired of supplying martyrs.

Yet, the people I see championing Graham’s “discipline” – nearly all of them white, mind you – are also the ones condemning the rioters. Why? It is quite simple: they think Graham was teaching her child to respect the police. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. She was lashing out because she fears the police, not because she respects them. “That’s my only son and at the end of the day I don’t want him to be a Freddie Gray,” she told CBS on Tuesday. Gray was killed while in Baltimore Police custody, sparking the protests and riots.

So, we do not really need more parents to beat their kids to teach them respect. What we need, as a society, is to stop creating situations where parents feel like assaulting their children is the only way to protect them. People like Toya Graham’s son would not be out protesting if there was nothing to protest. What we need is transparency and accountability; we need better-trained officers who are less reliant on deadly force.

We need black lives to matter.

(Image: YouTube Screenshot)

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