I wasn’t going to say anything about the video of the mother in Baltimore that’s gone viral. But I had a thought that I wanted to share.
First, let’s watch (there’s language in this so NSFW):
When I saw this, initially I chuckled to myself. I remember hearing mothers talk about how they climb up on footstools to smack their tall, teen sons when they got out of line. The message always was, “You may be taller than me and bigger than me, but I’m your mother and you will respect my authority.”
It wasn’t something that was said for applause. It was stated as a fact of life by the women raising men in this world. So when I saw that video, it was the visual representation of that very statement. But what happened next is what is causing me to give a nice, long side eye to a lot of people.
The media picked up the video and ran with it. I began to hear reports of people praising her for disciplining her son the “rioter”. She’s been called mother of the year by everyone from Fox News to CNN. People that are black, white, brown and everything in between are holding this mother up as an example of what needs to be done to discipline the “bad behavior” of the people in Baltimore.
The situation in Baltimore is born out of the rage, frustration and helplessness that comes when you feel oppressed, abused and mistreated by the people sworn to protect you and your family. It’s not simply “bad behavior” that can be taken care of with moment of discipline from mom.
When I saw that video, I saw a mother afraid for her son. I saw a mother doing what she does to keep him safe, which is probably something she’s done since he was born. Because as a black man, his safety isn’t always assured. As a black person, his well-being isn’t always guaranteed.
And there isn’t a lot she can do once he leaves her care. She has to trust that he will make choices that don’t give someone an excuse to harm him, or worse. When this mother saw her son making a choice that she saw as an unsafe one, she did what she’s always done. She disciplined him.
Does that make her mother of the year? No. It makes her a mother.