Toya Graham, the woman caught on camera pulling her son out from the streets of Baltimore, as it appeared to her he was ready to riot, has had her image played out throughout television, the Internet and newspapers all over the nation.
It’s a compelling scene played out in a most extreme environment. People have taken to the streets out of frustration over a perceived oppression ignited by the alleged criminal treatment of Freddie Gray, who died shortly after his arrest on April 12, where witnesses claim officers used unnecessary force. The City of Baltimore has established a curfew and employed the services of the National Guard to help maintain peace within the city.
Last Monday, Graham recognized her son despite his face covered by a dark mask, cap and hood. And, when she did, she proceeded to unleash holy hell; grabbing, pulling, and slapping him. Profanity flew as openly as her hand upon his head. People stood and watched, as her son cowered away from her blows.
It got him off the streets.
But even within the context of the situation, people have criticized her actions, describing it as abuse.
Parents of today are often confronted with a sense of guilt. The actions they take today conflict with how they remember being raised in the ‘70s and ‘80s. How children live today is vastly different, and we all know it. Kids don’t walk freely around the neighborhood free-range without purpose. Parents schedule activities, lessons and play dates. “Stranger Danger” has been infused into our DNA since NBC showed “Adam” in 1983, causing us not to leave our children out of sight in fear of a kidnapping.
Corporal punishment was another norm in our childhood. A parent was armed with an arsenal of phrases that, when spoken, would cause a child to stop in their tracks. There was no need for a hand to be raised, just the threat was enough. Most of the time. But, when the DEFCON level had to be raised, there was the spank, the belt, or the wooden spoon. Before it ever got that far, you heard, “Wait until your father comes home.”
Parents today remember all of this, and don’t show any worse for wear from surviving those days.
What is acceptable, and later unacceptable, in the eyes of society swings back and forth like a pendulum on a clock. It all seems to change from generation to generation, with a number of different factors, the most extreme of which often driving the change.
Today, children are more apt to disrespect their elders, raise a hand to another and deny responsibility for their own actions, without being corralled by their parents in some form or fashion. People recognize this at the grocery store, in the neighborhoods, at school. Graham recognized her child, despite the mask, and wrangled him in before he learned in a more difficult way, the dangers that come with the type of company you keep, and the consequences of your actions.
That’s being a mother.