Dear White America: Toya Graham Is Not Your Hero
Dear White America: Toya Graham Is Not Your Hero
By Julia Craven / huffingtonpost.com

When I told my grandma that I was among a crowd of protesters pepper-sprayed while covering the demonstration-turned-riot at Baltimore’s Mondawmin Mall on Monday, her response was blunt.

“Well, that should've been your answer to take yo' ass home,” she said.

Had she been with me that day, she might very well have reacted like Toya Graham. You might know Graham as the Internet celebrity “hero mom” or through the hashtag#MomOfTheYear or from the front page of the New York Post.

Every story needs a hero, and the media and white America has found a star in Graham, the African-American mom who slapped and pulled her teenage son out of the protest Monday afternoon. But is all this praise coming from a friendly place? History, and a closer look at what's going on, suggests not.

On a very basic level, the worship of Graham is built on a misunderstanding of her motivation. Many in the media have presumed she was furious at her son for taking part in a riot, and dished out the blows that police and pundits think young black men need to get them back in line. But that's not what she says drove her.

Young black men, like Graham’s son, are 21 times more likely than young white men to be shot dead by police. Graham was scared for her child.

“That’s my only son and I don’t want him to be a Freddie Gray," Graham told CBS. "Two wrongs don't make a right, and at the end of the day I just wanted to make sure I had gotten my son home."

My own grandmother isn’t much different from Graham. She wasn't concerned that I was on the streets rioting. She knew that I was there as a journalist covering the situation, and she supports the calls for justice in the face of police brutality. Nana prefers peaceful protests over rioting, like Graham -- and they both understand theanger and frustration of a community that turns to rioting because they feel like there’s no other way their voices will be heard. And they both fear for the lives of the black children they love. That's why she didn't want me to be a part of it -- she didn't want me to become another hashtag.

Knowing that Graham's primary motivation was to keep her son safe from police violence, would so many white observers have been as sympathetic to the beating she laid out? “Let’s be honest: many white folks are reflexive critics of the greater frequency of corporal punishment in the black community. Witness the media horror at Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson beating his young son,” wrote Joan Walsh in Salon. “If Graham beat her child like that in the aisles of CVS, you can be sure somebody would call CPS."

Indeed, American media have long condemned black parents for hitting their children. And the fact that police can be a mortal threat to black men and boys is no mystery to anybody paying attention to the news, so Graham's fear should have been widely seen for what it was. Yet beating this child, on this day, struck a different chord in the white community. Why?

Danielle Williams, a local resident involved in the protests, caught her own wave of Internet fame by torching an MSNBC anchor for the media's failure to focus on Baltimore before the violence. Reached by HuffPost, Williams said she thinks the mainstream media and white America are living vicariously through Graham “because she’s doing something that they wish that they could do to us and to our children.”

Because White America is living vicariously through her

https://t.co/NB3MwEI3Tx — Melech E. M. Thomas (@MelechT) April 29, 2015

Child Protective Services in Baltimore is strict, according to Williams. In any other scenario, she suggested, Graham’s disciplinary method would have brought officials to her door.

“If that had happened in any other context, [Graham] would be in a lot of trouble -- especially for the words that she was using and the manner in which she chose to discipline her son,” Williams said.

The media were joined by black male authority figures in celebrating Graham's discipline of her son -- part of a ritual in which black men who've made it subtly condemn those who haven't, even when they appear to praise them.

Consider Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts. "I wish I had more parents who took charge of their kids tonight,” he told reporters on Monday. “Take control of your kids."

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), a former Black Panther, took to the House floor with a picture of Graham in hand, praising the “love whopping” she gave her son:

Beside me today is an image that many people across the nation have seen and are talking about. The image of a strong mother giving her son what I would call a "love whopping" to snatch him back from the grips of senseless street violence plaguing Baltimore. As this picture demonstrates, Madame Speaker, mothers can and must be the mobilizing force to take back our streets. Mothers feel the pain of the loss of a child unlike any other. The primal scream of a mother at the death and sudden departure of her child is unlike any other outcry known to mankind.

Rush then asked America’s mothers to wear yellow on Mother’s Day “in a symbolic show of solidarity to create a ‘Mothers in Yellow’ movement to end violence that plagues this nation’s communities and neighborhoods.”

Really? That's the answer?

The police commissioner, for one, seems to be forgetting a key point as he celebrates the hero mom: She was protecting her son from him.

0.0 ·
0
What's Next
Trending Today
The Myth of Positivity: Why Your Pain Holds a Mighty Purpose
umair haque · 10,254 views today · Of all the great myths of contemporary life, one of the most toxic is positivity. It says: there are negative and positive emotions, and only the positive ones are worth...
Stunning Summary of US Imperialism and Native Resistance... on MSNBC!
4 min · 10,090 views today · On The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC, Lawrence explains why a protest by Native Americans in North Dakota reminds us of the history American always tries to forget.
Veterans at Standing Rock Ask Forgiveness for War Crimes Against Tribal Nations
Jen Hayden · 9,008 views today · Jon Eagle Sr., Tribal Historic Preservation Officer at Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has reported something wholly unexpected happened at the Standing Rock Reservation today. The...
Why People Cling to Old Beliefs
1 min · 8,347 views today · Cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist at McGill University, Daniel Levitin, explains why people can be so stubborn when it comes to false beliefs. This behavior is...
Standing Rock Wisdom: How Sacred, Nonviolent Activism Has the Power to Succeed
Charles Eisenstein · 8,211 views today · I am told by Native American friends active at Standing Rock that the elders are counseling the Water Protectors to undertake each action prayerfully and to stay off the...
Solar is Already Producing More Energy Than Oil, Says Major Scientific Review
Nafeez Ahmed · 5,229 views today · And is twice as powerful than previously thought
13 Crises That We All Must Face
George Monbiot · 4,502 views today · We face (at least) 13 major crises, some of which are immediate. It’s time for some hard thinking about how we confront them.
The Other Way of Knowing
Lilian Na’ia Alessa · 2,620 views today · Western science and Indigenous worldviews are often seen as incompatible, with the Indigenous view usually being far less valued by society at large. But an inside look at...
Sky Roosevelt-Morris: The Secret of Indigenous Resiliency
2 min · 2,368 views today · Activist Sky Roosevelt-Morris is of the Shawnee and White Mountain Apache Nations. She is a member of the Leadership Council of the American Indian Movement of Colorado. In...
DREAM: A Spoken Word Meditation For When Life Is Kicking Your Ass
4 min · 2,029 views today · If life is kicking your ass and the general un-coolness of everybody on planet erf is making you want to off yourself, TALK to someone: 800-273-8255 (national suicide...
Seven Must-Have Skills for the 21st Century
Tommy Lehe · 1,882 views today · We live in a world that moves faster than we do. Trying to keep up can be an overwhelming task that at times feels hopeless, like we are falling further and further behind—but...
Andy Goes In - Working Undercover in a Factory Farm
10 min · 1,785 views today · He's a $10/hr farmhand, and his name isn't Andy. Andy Goes In is a compelling 10-minute documentary short about a Mercy For Animals undercover investigator. The vast majority...
15 Films Inspiring and Illuminating the 'New Story' Revolution
Tim Hjersted · 1,740 views today · Charles Eisenstein is one of the first people I heard talk about the "new story," synthesizing a diverse movement that has been emerging for the last several decades. When I go...
Dear Activists, Maybe It's Time to Admit That We've Got It All Wrong
Mickey Z. · 1,705 views today · “The first step in the revolution is eye contact.” - Alicen Grey
Incredible Stories From 5 Inspirational Farms
12 min · 1,661 views today · In this series of 5 short films we visit five farms where incredible things sprout. From growing massive, 100-pound vegetables to giving injured animals another chance, these...
Australian Government Promotes Crap with Adani Carmichael Coal Mine
2 min · 1,518 views today · The Australian Government just released this advert about the proposed Carmichael Coal Mine and it's surprisingly honest and informative. 6 WAYS YOU CAN HELP STOP CCRAP: 1...
How a White Supremacist Became a Civil Rights Activist
Araz Hachadourian · 1,404 views today · The story of a KKK leader’s transformation shows us that we need not live forever with the kind of violence we saw in Charleston this month.
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 1,364 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
Mary Lyons Describes 'The We'
29 min · 1,187 views today · Beautiful. Listen to this. 
The Trouble With Equality: Feminism and the Forgotten Places of Power
Adebayo Akomolafe · 1,153 views today · "...Patriarchy is not the rule of men over women, it's the rule of the binary - the insistence that there really are sides, and that each is a pre-existing category unto...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Dear White America: Toya Graham Is Not Your Hero