Baltimore moms step up, send their children home


Gracie Bonds Staples is an award-winning journalist who has been writing for daily newspapers since 1979, when she graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi. She joined The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2000 after stints at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Sacramento Bee, Raleigh Times and two Mississippi dailies. Staples was recently promoted to Senior Features Enterprise Writer. Look for her columns Thursdays and Saturdays in Living and alternating Sundays in Metro.

People cheered as they watched the mom knock some sense into her son early this week during intense rioting in Baltimore.

The mother — who we’d later learn was Toya Graham — was one of many parents who responded to a plea from police to help out with the situation and pulled their kids off the street Monday evening.

“Several juveniles are part of these aggressive groups,” the Baltimore Police Department wrote on their social media accounts. “WE ARE ASKING ALL PARENTS TO LOCATE THEIR CHILDREN AND BRING THEM HOME.”

Rioting broke out in West Baltimore, near the place where 25-year-old Freddie Gray was arrested on April 12. Gray suffered a spinal cord injury while in police custody, and died on April 19. Rioters and protesters have joined together to call attention to his death.

A video of the mom smacking the teen upside the head went viral.

We can argue over her tactics later, but for now, she gets my “Mom of the Year” vote, too.

It might be the last time this century we get to see that without a parent having to answer to authorities. Had it been another time, she might have been arrested for child abuse.

If you subscribe to the thinking that parents, and black parents in particular, have checked out, here’s proof that the opposite is true.

I saw myself in that mom and so did a lot of other moms and dads I know. We felt her anger. We saw the disappointment in her right jab to his face and back as the two of them walked away. Whether she said these exact words or not, we heard her shouting didn’t I teach you better? What were you thinking?

That boy cowered under her voice, those slaps. That told me it wasn't the first time, that really all she had to do was summon the voice and he would've known he was in deep trouble and retreated.

People applauded her, but the truth is she was acting out of fear more than anything. While she probably supported peaceful protests, she said in television interviews that she showed up because she didn’t want her son to become another Freddie Gray.

Amid the chaos on the streets of Baltimore Monday night, anything could have happened.

Much of what did occur had little to do with Freddie Gray and how he died. You don’t take a crowbar, break into a store and steal to exact justice for murder. You don’t set fires and destroy police cruisers to protest police brutality and inequality.

What happened on the streets of Baltimore was the equivalent of an angry person spewing profanities to make his point. Not only does it offend disciples of Emily Post, it discloses a lack of character and turns discussions into arguments and in this case rioting.

There is no question that the police brutality happening across the country is wrong, that something needs to be done to address it. There is no question that all lives matter, including those black like me, my husband, my daughters.

But there’s got to be a better way to make that point and more importantly offer solutions.

Police officers are sworn to protect, but in too many black communities, they are seen as the enemy.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.”

Doing that would mean sitting down and listening with our hearts, trying to understand why we’re at odds with each other. It would take listening for understanding rather than waiting to issue our rebuttal.

Monday night, that didn’t look possible in Baltimore. By late Tuesday night, maybe so.

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