The Whitney Museum chooses silence in an effort to displace, downplay, and negate valid public outrage regarding their policies, ethics and leadership. By Jamara Wakefield May 17th marked the start of the 79th Whitney Biennial. The Biennial is a contemporary art exhibition, featuring typically young and lesser-known artists, at the Whitney Museum of American Art […]
How Celebrating Baltimore Mom Upholds White Supremacy
Happy Mother’s Day Baltimore Mom! Thank you for beating
the shit the protest out of your kid and teaching him not to resist white supremacy!
It is more fitting than ironic that the streets of Baltimore exploded during the year of the 50th anniversary of “The Moynihan Report” (originally titled “The Negro Family: A Case for National Action). Serious students of American politics and economics, at some point, drudge and claw their way through Moynihan’s findings, where he traced the root of poverty in urban black ghettos to the self-perpetuation of black pathology that has, across generations, destroyed the black family. For his efforts, Moynihan was rewarded with the label “racist” and ostracized by liberals; and there is plenty of fodder throughout the report to justify the charge that Moynihan did more victim-blaming than system-blaming. His emphasis on black degeneration is the crux of contemporary debates on black poverty for critics and supporters alike.
Published in 1965, by then-assistant secretary of the U.S. Labor Department, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Moynihan’s conclusions became holy script for Republocrats (Think Bill Clinton cross-fertilized with Paul Ryan) who, looking to strengthen the pillars of laissez faire-thinking and atomistic individualism, dutifully wring out as much exploitation as is humanly possible from his thesis on black degeneration. Over in the conservative blackosphere, Jason Riley, repping for Wall Street Journal, concluded his February-ode to Moynihan by reiterating Moynihan’s focus on “counterproductive cultural traits” in derailing the probability of black America bootstrapping its way out of low or no-income circumstances. Moynihan’s “tangle of pathology”, in spirit if not by name, is implicated to explain the cultural presuppositions behind recent events in Ferguson, New York, Michigan, and other cities.
In the days following Baltimore, I eagerly anticipated Moynihanisque arguments to make the rounds on the 24 news circuit. I wasn’t disappointed. Even the best of mainstream media (i.e. MSNBC), took pain to carefully and injudiciously cherry pick “outsider”, outlaw, opportunist types, from local, nonviolent, peaceful protestors. While thug-life looters deserved a spot next to Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Reynisha McBride, peaceful protestors met all the criteria of upstanding middle class citizens.
White America continues to be happy when blacks respond to brute force with calls for peace and nonviolence, combined with vigils and honorariums on behalf of dead black children.
Given that white America is in love with non-violence and (supposedly) anti-black pathology, the crescendo of applause coming from its ranks, celebrating the Baltimore Mom slap fest over the past few days, was a curious spectacle to behold. Toya Graham, single-mother of six, went upside her 16 year old son’s head, for attempting to participate in the Baltimore Uprising last week, and morphed into something of a cause celébè. What’s more, not a hint of anything Moynihanisque fertilized the laudatory crop of opinions. To the contrary. She was swiftly crowned “momoftheyear” by Twitterverse and Faceland, lauded by Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, and spotlighted, approvingly, by just about every mainstream news dynasty this side of global free enterprise. Not even Graham’s admission on CBS “This Morning”, of being a “no-tolerant” mother who “don’t play,” (code words every inner city black child are well versed in) could stop Anderson Cooper, CNN’s white knight, from a cozy Kodak moment with the Graham family, or media mogul Oprah Winfrey giving a thumbs up-seal of approval. And nothing screams best mom ever like kudos from Oprah.
What could possibly top a nod by lady O? How about a Mother’s Day pampering gifted by ABC 7 news in D.C.
Ummm, yeah. I’ll just leave that in the air for readers to process.
Now, maybe it’s just me, but, on any other given day, Graham would have perfectly fit the model of the very pathology that Moynihan prioritized in his work, the very model of poor parenting that Republocrats harp on when mishandling the poverty-race question. And if that’s the case (which I’m 150% convinced it is), then that begs a series of troubling questions, like …
Why was Graham’s “pathology” excused? Why did the New York Times encourage more black mothers to beat the protest out of their kids with the headline “Forget the National Guard…send out the Moms”? Why was no expert panel assembled to pontificate on Toya Graham as a “welfare queen” unable or unwilling to control her fertility? Why did no one shoot the side-eye at Graham, sneak dial CPA?
I can hear you, readers. Because, Twan, everyone knows that Blacks parent their children —
Hold up. Let’s be real. Not all of us (cough “white America”) make the connection between black parenting, corporal punishment, racism, and social survival, the gist of which is as follows: corporal punishment as the preferred method of discipline has a long history in black culture. Black parents, responding to a world that devalues black bodies and lives, whoop their children to prepare them for surviving and enduring a racist society.
Plus, ordinarily, this disciplinary strategy is criticized , by whites and blacks, as ineffective, counterproductive, and riddled with unhealthy long-term consequences. In a word, pathological, right?
Those of us behind the veil know that Graham’s actions was not just about saving another patrol car from being pummeled or minimizing the property damage to buildings, that there is more to her statement “I didn’t want him to become another Freddie Gray” than simply keeping her child from breaking laws.
This is why The HuffingtonPost’s Julia Craven told white America that “Toya Graham is not their hero,” and Stacey Patton, interrogating the reasons white America would celebrate a black mother beating her child, concluded that, in a society that profits from racism and dehumanizing black bodies, corporal punishment will never save black children. (FYI: Dr. Patton went even harder online. Her commentary on the CNN photo-op circulating on Facebook, “Fuck This Photograph,” perfectly captured the sentiments of anyone the least bit disturbed by the Graham incident.)
Which brings us back to the question. Why did no one outside the veil accuse Toya Graham of embodying cultural pathology? Of Moynihanism?
It’s really quite simple.
Black pathology is and always has been a function of white supremacy and capitalist economics.
Simple, right? Let me elaborate more.
In the eyes of much of white America, a black mother broad slapping her child is acceptable when it’s used to squelch any opposition to the regime of private property and capitalist social hierarchy. It is civil when it teaches submission to a militarized police force charged with protecting business as usual in America’s free market. And it is lawful, the best of middle class values, when it distracts from the real culprits – institutionalized racism,de facto prejudice and discrimination, abuse and misuse of political authority, half-ass progressive economic policy, and racial profiling that continues to unjustly and disproportionately incarcerate black men and women.
Like I said, simple. It’s all a matter of perspective. It’s not really about pathology per se, but how it’s used, what it’s used for, and who it’s used to protect. For white America, what happened in Baltimore, between a black mother and son, is nothing but another battle royale.
To sum: “pathology”, Moynihanism, is acceptable, civil, lawful, and moral so long as it keeps intact white supremacy, atomistic individualism, and capital enterprise.[toggler title=”You Can Read Patton’s Full Photo Critique Here” ]Fuck this photograph! I HATE this photograph! So many things about it are so deeply disturbing to me. Look at young Michael’s expression and his body language. Does he look like he is a willing participant in this national media foolywang? Look at him closely. Most of his face is a darkened shadow. No anger in his squinting eyes. Everybody is smiling warmly but him. His shoulders are tensed and squared away from the others, hands on full display down and pressed against his thighs like a good non-threatening boy. See, America, no rocks in these hands. One leg is perched forward to give him an island of comfort steadying himself for the pose so America can continue to celebrate this faux redemptive racial moment. So white America can enjoy its stereotype and black Americans can use it to say, “See, not all black mamas are seeds of deviant criminal offspring. Black mamas discipline their kids and teach them respect for authority.” Look at Cooper, looking like a scrubbed-faced racial tourist, dressed in all black everything to accentuate his gleaming whiteness. Under the guise of journalism he gets to have an Out of Africa moment in one of America’s most blighted citadels of white supremacy. Under any other circumstance do you believe Cooper would walk down the street and get this close to a black juvenile from the ‘hood who is taller than he? Michael’s body and face give us the answer. That sloping right shoulder of his asks: “Why is this white dude touching me? This dude’s hand can go right ahead and slide all the way off me. The only time white men in Baltimore touch black kids like me is when they are stopping us in our own neighborhoods, when they push us against dirty walls, throw us down on pissy sidewalks, when they search our pockets, lift our shirts, grab our testicles when they frisk us, beat us, handcuff us, throw us in jail, kill us, conduct our autopsies sometimes more than once and zip us up and send our corpses back to our mamas.” Look at Michael. The whole world already witnessed him getting assaulted. Then the news media pimped him out for back-to-back TV interviews where he had to talk about how wrong he was and how he understands that his mama swung on him because she loves him and wants to keep him safe. Ask yourself, what child wants to become a celebrity because he got repeatedly knocked upside his head and cussed out by his mama? And then have to pose for the camera so everybody can see what a child looks like post-whooping? And look at his mama, pretty and smiling. One side of her face is shaded by a flowing weave, the sunlight hitting the other side just the right way to give her the appearance of a warm and loving mama clutching her youngest babe. Anderson’s body is placed between her and Michael. She welcomes Cooper as he leans in close to her, like a mammy, giving him the hug she should have given her son. We still haven’t seen a picture of her hugging Michael yet, have we? And yet she is the bridge between white America’s interests and her “thug” son who had stepped out of line. I imagine that she probably said, “Smile Michael.” White conservatives and black people who believed that black kids need “a good whooping” can look at this photograph and say, “Aw now look at that. All is restored. This mom helped take back our streets. Her son is alive today because she put him in check. That’s a good responsible black mother. We need more like her!” Meanwhile young Michael and nameless faceless legions more like him will continue to bear the brunt of the mean-spiritedness of mainstream life in America. White and black people can look at this photo and use it to promote their commitment to physical discipline of children and continue to believe the mythology that black children’s behavior is the true enemy of peace, not racism or the white aggression that fuels their parent’s fear which makes it necessary to beat them so they can live. Fuck this picture![/toggler]