You’ve likely seen images of this Baltimore mother—Toya Graham, 42—dragging her masked son out of the zone of violent Freddie Gray protests: in the video, you can see her energetically walloping the 16-year-old, dragging him away from the action, and demanding that he take his mask off. Now, the White House has called her actions “a powerful expression about the role that parents can play.”
Says White House spokesman Josh Earnest:
The thing that resonated with me is—was her expression that she was concerned about her son facing the same fate as Freddie Gray. And while I’m sure that it was not the immediate reaction of her son to feel like she was looking out for his best interest, there is no doubting that her reaction was one that was rooted in her concern for his safety and his well-being and her love for her child.
Let me say first up that Graham seems like a real boss, and every teen in America, no matter the circumstances, should probably be put in their place on a weekly basis. But: how exactly does Graham’s example serve as a “powerful expression” of a role that parents “can” play? Parents can, if they so desire to get out there on the street, protect their kids from protesting the arbitrary state murder of young men who look just like them? Parents can, when those protests get violent, protect their kids from facing the same fate?
That’s a real clever displacement of responsibility on the White House’s part. “It really resonated with me, how hard you were trying to keep your son alive against a system that we sanction and have done nothing to curb, and continue to refuse to speak out against meaningfully.” It’s a play on the most surface human-interest instincts that drive the news cycle, as well as a fundamentally disrespectful co-option of respectability politics, which are ahistorical and anti-intellectual to begin with. Like: so this woman, a black single mother, is a national role model for whooping her son on video in public? That’s lovely. Very rich, considering that there’s no demographic more demonized for doing what they need to for the good of their families—like this South Carolina woman who was arrested for letting her 9-year-old go to the park while she worked at McDonald’s.
But, you know, Graham seems great, and now it’s White House-official. Just hope the black parents who see their children taken away from them by CPS at twice the rate of white families are able to quote this White House distractive blathering to their social workers to some salutary effect.
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