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
Welcome to Marinaleda: The Spanish Anti-Capitalist Town With Equal Wage Full Employment and $19 Housing
Jade Small · 9,471 views today · With virtually no police, crime or unemployment, meet the Spanish town described as a democratic, socialist utopia. Unemployment is non-existent in Marinaleda, an Andalusian...
Who Are You? Watching This Breathtaking Video Could Be the Moment You Change Your Life
2 min · 8,268 views today · "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 7,780 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
11 Traits of People With High Emotional Intelligence
Raven Fon · 7,369 views today · Lately, new ways to describe human interactions, social behaviours, and many facets of psychology have emerged on the social network scene. One of those descriptions is “high...
How a Trump Presidency Would Unleash a Torrent of Racist Violence-And Devastate the Left
Arun Gupta · 7,126 views today · The Left should take the Trump threat very seriously.
10 Provocative Quotes from Ivan Illich's "Deschooling Society"
Daniel Lattier · 5,151 views today · Ivan Illich’s groundbreaking book Deschooling Society (1971) offers a radical critique of the institutionalization of education within modern societies. Illich believed that we...
Maya Angelou's 3-Word Secret to Living Your Best Life
3 min · 4,822 views today · Dr. Maya Angelou says that in order to be the best human being you can be, you must follow one simple directive: "Just do right." Watch as Dr. Angelou reveals how you can never...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 4,810 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Forest Man
16 min · 4,430 views today · Since the 1970's Majuli islander Jadav Payeng has been planting trees in order to save his island. To date he has single handedly planted a forest larger than Central Park NYC...
Doctors Response to Daily Mail Bigotry is Beautiful
Neil Tiwari · 4,134 views today · A poetic open letter to the Daily Mail newspaper from Dr. Neil Tiwari, in response to a bigoted attack on his colleagues, is going viral and it's beautiful.
Superblocks: How Barcelona Is Taking City Streets Back From Cars
5 min · 3,786 views today · Modern cities are designed for cars. But the city of Barcelona is testing out an urban design trick that can give cities back to pedestrians.
Real Change in Democracy Comes Not in the Voting Booth but Activism at the Grass-Roots
Ilze Peterson · 3,637 views today · Many years ago, the late Judy Guay, a low-income woman from Bangor, founded the Maine Association of Interdependent Neighborhoods in order to advocate for the neediest in our...
Fighting Trump - Residents Opposing Donald Trump's Scottish Golf Resort
14 min · 3,548 views today · Documentary on the residents protesting against Donald Trump's golf development on the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Directed and Presented by James Trosh.
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 3,235 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently
Maria Popova · 2,896 views today · “Just how charitable are you supposed to be when criticizing the views of an opponent?”
Alan Watts: What If Money Was No Object?
3 min · 2,646 views today · How do you like to spend your life? What do you desire? What if money didn't matter? What if money was no object? What would you like to do if money were no object? Spoken...
What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone
Heather Plett · 2,132 views today · How to be there for the people who need you most
10 Shocking Facts About Society That We Absurdly Accept As Normal
Joe Martino · 1,875 views today · When you take a moment and look around at the world, things can appear pretty messed up. Take 5 or 10 minutes and watch the 6 o’clock news. Chances are, the entire time, all...
Throw (2016)
10 min · 1,569 views today · The first installment of Invisible Thread, an ongoing ELM passion project series, Throw tells the story of an outsider from East Baltimore, an area challenged by gang violence...
A City Open to Migration and Diversity?
2 min · 1,551 views today · We speak to Thomas Jézéquel of Eurocities about what the city of Gdańsk can teach us.
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Dear White America: Toya Graham Is Not Your Hero