We can neither criticize nor praise that mama for beating and chasing after her son on public streets in Baltimore, my friends.
That mama makes for an easy distraction from the real issue. Alan so very poignantly stated to me this morning that people are parading her video around today as if to say, “Look, see, if ALL Black mamas were doing this to their sons, this whole big messy racism problem would all go away.” And really? So we think Black mamas aren’t trying to raise their boys right? How many times have we participated in discussions that pushed much of the blame for America’s problem with race right back on to Black mothers, claiming that if they only did something different the whole thing would be all gone?
There are several ways that video is disturbing for all of us. To lift her up as a model only teaches children further violence in response to situations. I can’t say she was doing the right thing or the wrong thing in her situation. I think it is easy, as a white woman, to say oh I woulda beat my kid up too, but would I have? If I said that, wouldn’t I be speaking from a certain position of privilege – the privilege of having boys who don’t feel the need to protest because they stand in very different circumstances in their lives?
To lift her up only means we automatically assume Black women are not the mothers they should be – as if we had the right to tell Black mothers how to raise their sons? As if Black mothers aren’t doing their absolute best already? As if we can deny the true hardships Black mothers face every day, trying to raise their boys?
To lift her up only belittles the reality of a very deep, systemic issue that is the result of the actions, beliefs, ideals, and systems of many. Of all of us. The problems of race exist in America not because Black mothers failed, but because we all failed. We are all participants in this problem, many of us the problem because we refuse to acknowledge there is a problem.
And to raise her up makes her the cop, pitted in between white cops and Black men, trying her hardest to keep peace somehow. But in reality she is desperate to keep one more Black man out of prison. She can’t afford for him to go to prison. Black families can’t afford for one more Black son or husband or father to go to prison.
No, this issue is much bigger than one mama, my friends. This mama reminds us of the stigma we all view her video with – the preconceived notion that media wishes us to buy into. Look, a Black mama punishing her son. That is newsworthy, as if Black mamas don’t punish their sons or as if this issue were as simple as that. I doubt many of us white folk really understand the realities of being a Black woman, or a Black mother, and what life looks like for these women of valor. It’s easy to speak from our little white worlds of comfort, where the husband works and the kids go off to college. For Black women, the landscape looks much different, as they live the reality of statistics of Black men who are incarcerated and marked for life. For them the landscape looks much different, when it is not only their sons or husbands in prison, but the sons and husbands of the entire neighborhood. Gone. Absent, not because they are “promiscuous” as the rhetoric would have us believe, but missing because they are incarcerated within a for-profit system that preys upon them simply for the color of their skin.