In the midst of the latest violence that has been exacerbated by the 24/7 media in Baltimore there is a striking video image that captured the attention of many Americans.
As young men and women primarily rioted, with some protesting, a Mom by the name of Toya Graham grabbed her son, Michael, and not only pulled him out of the chaos that he had become a part of, but made it clear that she had no intention of him becoming a victim of the violence that had overtaken Baltimore.
I don’t know what her political affiliations are. I also don’t care. I don’t know what she thinks about the events that led to the violence in Baltimore. I don’t care.
But, I do know what her motivations must have been. Here, in the midst of violence and terror was her child who was participating in an increasingly mob mentality, who could become a victim of violence.
In interviews after she was caught on camera pulling her son out of the riot, and physically pushing and hitting him out of harm’s way, she made it clear what her motivation was:
“I don’t want him to be a Freddie Gray”.
Freddie Gray is the young African American man who died while in police custody in Boston. Now, six police officers, black and white, have been charged for their role in his death.
While it is time for the criminal justice system to do its job and get to the bottom of this tragedy the story of Toya Graham stands out for me because of everything that is right, and wrong, about how this story has been reported.
On the political right, Republicans have grabbed onto Toya Graham as an example of a Mom doing what every parent in America should be doing — protecting her child.
The unspoken part of this praise, which I am sure even has even more conservative Republicans gnashing their teeth is that Toya is a single Mom of six kids.
On the political left, confused about how to react to the image of a Mom using physical force to, from her perspective, save her son’s life, they are outraged she is being held up as a paragon of parenting virtue because of the violence she used to save her son.
The irony and hypocrisy is rich: On one hand they will praise the violence that took place that injured cops, destroyed the livelihood of business owners and destroyed the personal property of Baltimore residents as a legitimate means of protest, but on the other hand they cry foul at the physical violence a Mom used to save her son’s life.
In Toya Graham’s case the ends justified the means.
And, she was right to do what she did.
But, what she did as being remarkable rings hollow to me.
That she was caught on camera doing it should remind us, though, the value of a Mom, a Dad, or a Mom and a Dad or some other combination of parenthood.
Most importantly, a parent or parents.
I am in a family circle that includes siblings who raised their children on their own as well as having other members of that broadening circle who are raising children on their own.
Some are doing so as a matter of choice. Others have done so as a matter of circumstances.
Whatever the reason they are executing their obligations as parents with the perspective that their child or children is the principle reason for their existence.
I have long ago realized that the notion of a family requiring two parents – of opposite sex – is less crucial to the requirement that whatever family structure is in place offers a clear path to success for the children in that familial community.
What matters is that a parent or parents is engaged and is responsible. What matters is that they impart upon their children a sense of civic duty and responsibility. What matters is that their children understand they are loved and in the space of that love there are rules and responsibilities and obligations they must follow – and in return, they can expect that a parent or parents will continue to support them with the resources they have at their means.
Toya Graham is not a hero. She is a Mom.
To the extent that Moms are heroes she definitely meets that definition.
But, her pulling her son from a situation that she felt threatened his life doesn’t make her more special than any other Mom.
She just happened to catch her son’s image on camera and then made a beeline to where he was to get him out of their as quickly and efficiently as possible.
She was being a Mom. A parent.
I imagine, perhaps I hope, that any parent – Mom or Dad or Mom and Dad – seeing their son or daughter in a similar situation would have acted exactly as Toya Graham did that day.
She didn’t hesitate. She didn’t equivocate.
She had determined she had a specific goal and objective in mind that day when she put into action her plan: Save my son.
Toya Graham reminds us that whether a family is led by a Mom, or a Dad or a Mom and a Dad, or some other version of a parent, the most important job is to protect children from life and prepare them for life.