Toya Graham’s publicly televised and panicked disciplining of her son on national TV opens the door for a lot of dialogue.
Yesterday, footage of a mother slapping her son silly on camera went viral. Her son was participating in the #BaltimoreUprising, and she wasn’t having it.
The Baltimore Police Commissioner, Anthony Batts, praised the mother for disciplining her son.
“If you saw on one scene, you had one mother who grabbed her child who had a hood on his head and she started smacking him on the head because she was so embarrassed,” Batts continues, “I wish I had more parents that took charge of their kids out there tonight.”
Yet Batts is failing to realize that Graham wasn’t necessarily embarrassed by her son’s behavior; she was afraid for him…why?
Because she knows that there is a chance that her son could end up being the next social media hashtag or trending topic on Twitter, due to the disgusting displays of excessive, often lethal, use of force by militarized police, that’s why.
Besides Batts, many talking heads lavished praises on Graham for what she did, and it’s certainly not our position to judge or tell someone how to raise their child, but…
…If we are trying to stop the violence and unnecessary and/or overuse of force by police, which Graham not so subtly alluded to in her interview, why is it that we’re reinforcing public displays of aggression and violence? The physical use of force (corporal punishment) isn’t the only way to discipline a child or control behavior.
Today, mainstream media praised a mother for publicly smacking up her son, when in reality, had that happened at any other time or any other place, they’d more than likely be calling child protective services and maybe even the police; certainly not inviting the mom on talk shows and lauding her as a hero, or a model mother.
In fact, what’s being praised in that video can actually meet the criteria for child abuse in many states, since the young man was struck in the face/head, which is unacceptable, and largely discouraged–and possibly illegal, depending on what state you’re in.
Even if it doesn’t meet the statutory criteria for child abuse, there’s no doubt that the physical use of punishment has a long-lasting negative impact on kids. CNN’s own Sarah Kovac has reported on multiple studies regarding corporal punishment, and the findings reported, supported by multiple psychologists, reveal that it doesn’t even work.
A study published by the journal Pediatrics in 2012 found that the negative effects linger well into adulthood, and are sometimes lifelong, noting that “harsh physical punishment was associated with increased odds of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse/dependence, and several personality disorders.”
That’s because spanking (or other physical punishment) actually alters a child’s brain: A 2009 study cited by Huffington Post found that children who were frequently spanked (defined as at least once a month for more than three years) “had less gray matter in certain areas of the prefrontal cortex that have been linked to depression, addiction and other mental health disorders.”
Another reported on by CNN found that children who are subject to corporal punishment have a decrease in cognitive ability, compared to other kids.
And here’s the kicker: Physical punishment makes kids more aggressive.
Unfortunately, we know that a Black male is often erroneously perceived as threatening on his own accord, without the added risk of actually acting out aggressively towards law enforcement.
This is not a mother who was “embarrassed.” This is a mother who was acting out of fear that her only son would be harmed, who didn’t give a damn if she was caught on camera slapping her kid silly, because her only thought at that time was his safety.
Bear in mind, however, that the same outlets praising Toya Graham today would be the first ones shredding her parenting to pieces tomorrow had this taken place in some other context. She’s being praised because the mainstream media needs to control the narrative, and what they need to continue to portray is that all protestors are aggressive “thugs,” and the only way to control them is via violence.
When you take all this into account, it doesn’t seem like it’s so praiseworthy after all.
Kids need discipline, yes. But the same media supporting her today would surely be screaming “Child abuse!” in some other setting, and the fact that a mother risked this, whilst in view of national news crews, sheds light on the need–and the opportunities–for a lot of discussion and rebuilding in our communities, to say the very least. It’s also a huge opportunity to recognize (in case you haven’t already), that yes, there is a huge double standard at play here.
Black lives matter.