Baltimore’s “Hero Mom” has a name. It’s Toya Graham.
And the woman lionized nationwide for beating her 16-year-old son on camera, and dragging him away from Monday night’s riots, doesn’t feel at all like a hero.
“I don’t. I don’t,” Graham told CBS “This Morning” on Wednesday. “My intention was just to get my son and have him be safe.” Later in the interview, Graham confesses, “I just lost it.” (Watch the whole thing at the end of this post.)
Her moment of losing it made her a hero to much of white America – and not just to the right. Coast to coast, the media is hyping Graham as “Hero Mom” and her on-camera beating as “Tough Love.” It’s not just Fox News or the “New York Post,” whose tabloid “Send in the Moms” front page this time reflects rather than rebukes the mainstream media. And that’s heartbreaking.
The debate over the moment Graham says she “lost it” is complex. There’s a parallel black debate going on that, as always when it comes to racial issues, is richer and more nuanced. But anyone white who’s applauding Graham’s moment of desperation, along with the white media figures who are hyping her “heroism,” is essentially justifying police brutality, and saying the only way to control black kids is to beat the shit out of them.
I’m aware that a lot of African Americans are lauding Graham, too. This piece isn’t directed at them. Whether they applaud or critique Graham’s corporal punishment, most black people debating the issue acknowledge that the desperate public beating came from centuries of black parents knowing they have to discipline their children harshly, or else white society will do it for them – and they may not survive it.
The hypocrisy of the white mainstream applauding Graham is sickening. 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. If Graham beat her child like that in the aisles of CVS, you can be sure somebody would call CPS.