Was Toya Graham wrong in disciplining her son?

Interesting article in the Washington Post about Toya Graham beating her sixteen year old son upside the head in front of the whole world. In the article the writer, Stacey Patton states that the type of beating Ms. Graham inflicted on her son originated with white supremacy.

It’s not surprising that a black mother in Baltimore who chased down, cursed and beat her 16-year-old son in the middle of a riot has been called a hero. In this country, when black mothers fulfill stereotypes of mammies, angry and thwarting resistance to a system designed to kill their children, they get praised.

“He gave me eye contact,” Toya Graham told CBS News. “And at that point, you know, not even thinking about cameras or anything like that — that’s my only son and at the end of the day, I don’t want him to be a Freddie Gray. Is he the perfect boy? No he’s not, but he’s mine.”

In other words, Graham’s message to America is: I will teach my black son not to resist white supremacy so he can live.

The kind of violent discipline Graham unleashed on her son did not originate with her, or with my adoptive mother who publicly beat me when I was a child, or with the legions of black parents who equate pain with protection and love. The beatings originated with white supremacy, a history of cultural and physical violence that devalues black life at every turn. From slavery through Jim Crow, from the school-to-prison pipeline, the innocence and protection of black children has always been a dream deferred.

I can understand what Ms. Patton is saying about how the beatings started during slavery. I’ve always wondered why black parents beating the hell out of their children would want to continue this tradition.  I had my share of spankings, not beatings, when I was a youngster. But during times like the Baltimore unrest on Monday I don’t blame Toya Graham. Who wants to see their child on tv throwing rocks at the police? Or watching your child looting stores and carrying out a case of soda like I saw on Monday. Ms. Graham’s son could have been killed by the police. That young man is lucky the police used restraint despite all the rioting and looting that went on in Baltimore. Would Ms. Graham been better off telling her son to sit down on the curb and take a time out?

baltimore_mom

The problem is that Graham’s actions do not assure that her son, and legions like him, will survive childhood. Recall the uncle who in 2011 posted a video recording of himself beating his teenage nephew for posting gang messages on Facebook. Acting out of love and fear for his life, he whipped the teen, but months later he was found dead anyway.

Praising Graham distracts from a hard truth: It doesn’t matter how black children behave – whether they throw rocks at the police, burn a CVS, join gangs, walk home from the store with candy in their pocket, listen to rap music in a car with friends, play with a toy gun in a park, or simply make eye contact with a police officer – they risk being killed and blamed for their own deaths because black youths are rarely viewed as innocent or worthy of protection.

Check out Ms. Patton’s entire article at the Washington Post.

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