The Slap Felt All Across America
The Slap Felt All Across America
Some critics are now coming down on “Mother of The Year”, Toya Graham, mother of Michael Singleton, who publicly slapped and cursed at her son after learning that he was partaking of the Baltimore riots.
The rhetoric goes something like this: that America is “celebrating” the beating of a black child. That Toya Graham’s behavior has basically set back African-American progress in raising their children. That she fulfilled a stereotype by being a “mammy”, that she has given the message to others that she will teach her son “not to resist white supremacy” (the police getting specific mentions here), that she reinforced the stereotype that African-American youths are consistently problematic, that she metaphorically “lynched” her son Michael after “making eye contact”—just like Freddie Gray “made eye contact” with—you guessed it—the (white) police, the cops, the fuzz….
Baltimore is not Ferguson and its primary problems are not racial. The mayor, city council president, police chief, top prosecutor, and many other city leaders are black, as is half of Baltimore’s 3,000-person police force. The city has many prominent black churches and a line of black civic leadership extending back to Frederick Douglas–Michael A Fletcher, The Washington Post.
So clearly, Toya Graham’s reaction to her son should not be all about race and oppression and the (white) police force our pseudo-intellectual friends would like us to believe. Could it be as simple as Toya Graham just being a mom? As moms, we have all seen our children do something that causes us to react with the initial “freak out”–especially in times of danger. I’ve been known to turn into a stark, raving lunatic if my son does something that could possibly get him seriously injured or killed or just if he does or says something utterly disrespectful. To Toya Graham, perhaps a couple of smacks upside the head and a few curse words were the only way she knew of at that time to get her son out of harm’s way. It is clear that she wants better for her son, despite the circumstances that surround them and the odds and the constant rhetoric of stereotypical language brought about by our media on the topic of young, African-American males.
It is not that those cheering on Toya Graham condone corporal punishment and public lashings of African American children—or children of any race for that matter-(by the way, white kids get/got beaten back in the day, too)-but perhaps a wake-up call—a slap upside the head to parents—of all races and walks of life—that BOUNDARIES are important. Discipline is important. Rules are important. Respect is important. I don’t know how many times I have seen kids in my neighborhood do utterly disrespectful things (hit or curse at other adults, destroy property or deliberately not listen to an adult) to only see mom rolling her eyes and saying the kids’ names with NO CONSEQUENCES–stating simply, “boys will be boys.” I had a kid say to me once—“I never get grounded.” Well, therein lies the problem!
“I wish I had more parents who took charge of their kids (tonight)”. Take control of your kids.”
The above spoken by Anthony Batts, who, at last time I’ve checked is an African-American. Here is the rub. We have a bunch of eye-rolling parents on our hands in America today. Yes, “boys will be boys”—but what kind of MEN do we want them to become? As a mother of a son, I think about that daily. I’m sure Toya Graham thinks about this, too. She was not willing to sit back on the sidelines and roll her eyes at her son’s behavior. Good for her. She does not want her son “falling in line” with the stereotypical rhetoric that surrounds him. Good for her. She was not willing to risk her son’s safety and wanted to protect him. Good for her. And now, she’s getting a public lashing for being a parent!
The slap felt all across America was not an attack on young black men to get them to “fall back in line” as some critics believe or about white supremacy or hypocrisy or an excuse for police brutality and corruption but for parents to fall back in line with their kids and stop the chaos.
This is not about the police, race, or parenting techniques. This is about generations to come.