Mother of the Year?
Mother of the Year?
Better Slow Your Roll! Jumal Okeyo Jumal May, 2015
Before you crown Baltimore mom, Toya Graham, “Mother of the Year”, I must stand on my chair in the middle of her coronation ball to shout my objection! Yes, her actions inspired many “right-on’s”, “I would have done the same thing” or, “we need more mothers like her”, “we need more tough love.” Toya’s fifteen seconds of fame is brought to you by the usual suspects that routinely herd opinions down a cattle chute; CBS, FOX, CNN, etc. Then there’s ‘The View’ with Whoopi and Rosie giving figurative high fives, the Morning shows, street interviews, blogs, twitter and the word from god herself, a congratulating phone call from Oprah. First let me say, as a father and grandfather, I totally understand the natural adrenalin rush to protect, shelter and keep our children out of harms way. As a teacher at several grade levels over the years, I’ve witnessed parent’s come to school hugging, pulling and dragging their child from fights and other volatile situations. These are commendable, naturally caring responses. But this was not Toya Graham. There’s a serious difference between pulling a child away from harm and busting a child up-side the head with angry punches! Tough love, two fisted love?! She threw solid blows upside son Michael’s head, blows so accurately delivered, that one interview host asks if she’d done this type of discipline before and her reply was yes. From watching the video, it was obvious; she’d--been there, done that. And her profanity laced rants, “get your fucking ass over here, I said get the fuck over here”, also made it clear that mom’s use of vulgarities was also a familiar tool in her parenting repertoire.But in fairness, Toya’s violent display only highlights a systemic problem grooved deep in our past. The Black community has been marinated with the twisted logic that whippings, beatings, knocking kids into next week, beating all the black off ‘um, slappin’ taste out tha mouth is acceptable. It’s like, that’s what we do! But the ‘whuppin’ is part of the “filthy residue” of slavery, drug off the plantation and sprouting roots in the Black church, where it still maintains a firm grip today. Slavery seared into the psych that whupping’s can achieve any desired behavior modification in man, woman or child. This is plantation thinking, yet centuries later; we continue this practice of violence as if it’s something reverent. “No one has the given right to assault another human being, child though they may be.” What Toya Graham just taught son Michael how to discipline his yet born children and her yet born grandchildren, her yet to be daughter-in-law. It’s oxymoron’ish, it’s irrational thinking, that using violence teaches a child how NOT to use violence! “Continuing to do the same thing and expect different results is the definition of insanity.”
Toya Graham, like us, is a product of the “filthy residue”. For you who applaud her actions, it will soon become time for you to move on, turn to the next media driven spectacle. But Toya’s left to deal with the collateral damage she inflected with her Wal-Mart beat down of her sixteen year old son. After the commentators and T.V. trucks pack-up and take-off chasing the next ambulance, after the bright lights fade to darkness and after moms fifteen seconds of fame vanishes, her home is still in that community. Her son will still live in that neighborhood, will attend the same school, hang with his same crowd, talk to the same girls. Have we even considered the possible damage to this young man, before crowning mom, “mother of the year”?
You cannot whup a child to success, but whuppings can most surely result in serious negative consequences. When I was working as a substitute teacher while finishing my teaching credential at the university, Riverside County Schools assigned me to a sub position teaching GED classes at Banning Medium Security Prison, about eighty miles east of Los Angeles. Coincidently, in my university classroom, the subject of child discipline developed into a rousing discussion. What caught my attention were the five or six Black students in the class who shared that corporal punishment was not part of their upbringing, but they well knew that whippings were a common practice. I was intrigued. Black discipline practices became the subject of my term paper. I’d ask the question to random African American students on campus, “How were you disciplined at home” and with few exceptions, corporal punishment was not part of their upbringing.
The next few days while teaching my GED classes at the Banning Prison, I posed the same question to the inmates, “How were you disciplined at home”, and almost to a man, the Black inmates confided that they were routine recipients of corporal punishment or “whuppin’s”; beat with fists, slapped up-side the head, hit with extension cords, cloths-hangers, switches, curtain rods, razor straps, broom handles or the closest object in mama’s reach. Ironically, while conversing with the prisoners, several stated that they were glad their parent whipped them, “it kept me out of trouble.”?!
The conclusion of my term paper was simply put;
“You can't whup a child to college,
but you can sure whup 'em to the penitentiary!"