Michaela Davis: Baltimore Mom ‘A Symbol, and Not a Hero’

Cultural critic and writer Michaela Angela Davis said that Baltimore mom Toya Graham “is a symbol, and not a hero” on Thursday’s “CNN Newsroom.”

Davis began by saying Graham’s case is “complicated” and “this is not an indictment of Ms. Graham. I feel like every mother has a little Toya in her.”

She then stated, “what is important is how complex this image is for us to negotiate, particularly women, and particularly black women that it’s a sad day when a traumatized, terrorized, desperate mother beating and cursing her child becomes mom of the year, right? So, for me — and there are many women with different voices about how this is complicated, so this is just one point of view, that she is a symbol and not a hero, and she symbolizes what incessant brutality, violence, desperation, and systemic violence on her, right, and the daily struggle to survive that, that’s what that looks like, when your only option is violence, right when your response is violence.”

Davis then stated, “we watched her in terror. She’s terrified that her son may get murdered by the police. She said — the most devastating part of the whole interview to me, when she said ‘I don’t want my son to be another Freddie Gray.’ A Freddie Gray, like it’s a noun, like it’s a daily thing, knowing he might get killed by the police, so whether she was cursing at him, and literally hitting him upside the head, is that — the point is is what drove her. And why was she able to be with him at 3:00 in the afternoon. She’s unemployed. She’s lonely, she’s poor, she’s out of options. That’s what that looks like.”And “teens hardly ever do what adults, say, right? But they’re very good at imitating us. So, if she meets him with aggression, he will meet life with aggression, right? And then how else was he supposed to work out his trauma, he’s a boy throwing rocks.”

She concluded, “there are men who are buried who were beat, there are men in prison who were beat. Freddie Gray, his mom might have beat him, too. There is no evidence to say that beating my kid will stop him from being arrested or going to jail. And what is difficult, also, for me too is what seems to be the ease that we have with black girl pain and violence, and how it seems like entertainment, that this is what we loop over and over again, whether it’s a beatdown in McDonald’s, right? Or whether it’s very glamorous women beating each other upside the head with a bottle. You know what I mean? We are so comfortable with seeing black women violently expressing themselves, desperate in whatever measure. And so this image, over and over and over again, plays into that trope of the angry black woman. So, we have to negotiate all these angles of it, it’s not, ‘oh, look at the sassy black girl that got her son.’ It is — it represents so much.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett


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