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America’s Obsession with the Fighting Baltimore Mother

Video of a Baltimore Black mother disciplining her son for participating in the protest against Freddie Gray’s death at the hands of the police, has done more than go viral, it’s become America’s new obsession.

The mother, since identified as Toya Graham, told CBS News the night before the protests her 16 year-old son Michael Singleton, said kids at his high school were planning to meet at the Mondawmin Mall Monday afternoon, the day after Freddie Gray’s funeral. Graham warned her son not to go.

‘That’s my only son and at the end of the day, I don’t want him to be a Freddie Gray.”  

The next day she was at a doctor’s appointment with her eldest daughter and heard schools let out early and people were gathering at the mall. Graham says she immediately left to go find her son.

“I recognized those baggy sweatpants and we made eye contact.” Graham says she told Michael, “How dare you do this?”

But the part of Graham’s story the media conveniently ignores is why she ran for her son in the first place.

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‘That’s my only son and at the end of the day, I don’t want him to be a Freddie Gray.”  

Images of Graham chasing her son and hitting him upside the head have been looped on mainstream TV shows like “The View” and “Kelly and Michael” as if it’s the latest baby daddy reveal on “Maury”. It’s a hot topic on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. But for all the wrong reasons.

This viral clip of a Black mother battling with her son is being strategically used to send an anti-riot, anti-resistance and anti-protest message that suggests even the mothers of these young thugs can’t control them and mothers of these hoodie and mask-wearing young thugs disagree with them resisting in the streets, too.

“Thugs”—a misappropriated and damaging title lacking context for young Black men who are living in trauma, angst and fear of the being next Freddie Gray—has been used by Donald Trump and sadly even president Obama.

“Anti-riot messaging is an isolated and empty commentary too easy and too puny that dry shampoos race in America instead of washing it clean strand by strand.”

It’s a frozen image all to easily recycled over and over again, showing Black women and Black men at each other’s necks, embroiled and confused. What it doesn’t show is the honest and complicated image of mother and son navigating a country that consistently and habitually rejects them, misunderstands them and blatantly executes them. 

I don’t condone Baltimore ripping itself to shreds. I don’t condone throwing trash cans filled with fire at police. I don’t condone blazing grocery stores. But what I also don’t condone are tricks and magic shows used to manipulate the public.

Why was Toya Graham in the streets grabbing her son? Because she’s afraid. Like Sabrina Fulton. Like Lesley McFadden. Like so many Black mothers who have lost their sons to senseless murder at the hands of the police in America.

An isolated commentary that timely services the media’s message to make the streets of Baltimore more safe for the police and not for young Black boys and girls too, is a commentary I can not stand by and hear.

Like post-racial politics, anti-riot messaging is an isolated and empty commentary too easy and too puny that dry shampoos race in America instead of washing it clean strand by strand.

Let’s stop using this Black mother— who was more afraid of losing her son than to see him stand up for justice—to place fast filters and polyester sleeping masks on America’s systemic police problem. Let’s instead, get to why Freddie Gray is dead in the first place.

Geneva S. Thomas

Geneva S. Thomas

Geneva is the founder of Jawbreaker, which she plans on turning into an intergalactic all-girl army that will someday storm the streets of the world in studded bras and Tom Ford boots. She recently took up archery and collects more books than shoes.

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