Monday, May 4, 2015

Toya Graham--Mother of the Year?! Perhaps Not....

Much has been made of Toya Graham, single mother of six, who first came to attention as 'Mother in Yellow' (before reporters were able to uncover her identity) who stormed out of her house upon seeing her sixteen-year-old partake in the violence and mayhem on the streets in Baltimore last week.

She slapped him 'upside the head' in terminology I am now familiar with due to the incessant coverage of the incident, and in turn has found herself an unwitting participant in the humanization of the riots there that sells newspapers and advertising on national morning shows.

How we love our ten-second sound bites and headlines that tell only half the story.

They make us feel as if we are current, can participate in trending twitter feeds with a certain alacrity, and allow us to tuck our guilty conscience into bed at night before blindly following the newer hashtag and fresher soundbite.

I have a big problem with Ms. Graham--is that her maiden name, by the way, or the name of her first or second husband? Was she ever married...widowed...divorced...? I don't have the answers to those questions, and they aren't beside the point, because she's being lauded as the 'single mother of six' who dashed out of her house, unflinchingly in the face of camera phones and disciplined her son for all of us to revere.

The New York Post's headlines screamed: Toya Graham--MOTHER OF THE YEAR.
I would write a different one, how about: Toya Graham--MOTHER AND FATHER OF THE YEAR, because there's been no mention of Michael's father, or any of his siblings father's and even if they share the same father. I'm sorry if I'm being direct here, but anecdotally, black mothers in poor urban areas raise their children, not alone, according to Ylonda Gault Caviness, in Sundays Op-Ed at The New York Times 
but with a cadre of other black women from the neighborhood with the occasional grandfather pitching in. There is no mention of fathers in her piece. 

I applaud Ms. Graham, but only with one hand. I'm happy her slaps to her son's head were the 'slaps heard 'round the world.' I'm not condoning the slaps or the four-letter words she used to get him in line--doubtless he's heard it all from her before and yet he was still out on the streets rioting.

And truly I fear her actions will have any real effect except for the moment, because until she is off the interview circuit and has to go back to work to feed and clothe the six children she apparently had through sperm-donor fathers, because the mark of a true father is one who sticks around to take responsibility and raises his family. 
I am clapping only one hand, because Ms. Graham perpetuated her family's cycle of poverty by allowing herself to mother her children alone, either by poor choices, or lack of understanding that A+B=Child. That excuse can really only fly for a fourteen or fifteen year-old, and truly, that pass is afforded only once, if at all.

I have a dozen more points I'd like to make, but there's little reason to because our collective attention has moved on. I would like to know about Ms. Graham's other children and what they're up to. I would like to have a follow-up report in a year to see if Michael has graduated high school and is making plans for a solid future. But I won't get to hear any of that because the media reaches for low-hanging fruit and we enjoy munching on it.

Sunday is Mother's Day. I'm applauding and giving a standing ovation for the mothers who chose their husbands and the fathers of the children well and are toiling day-to-day under challenging circumstances, whether financially, or due to illness, or widowhood to raise their children to grow up to be contributing members of society who can then in turn make considered choices about their futures. We are desperate for mothers like those.
Our society depends upon the health of family unit, let's not take the easy route and applaud a woman who after the fact, has finally done the right thing.