If Only Al Sharpton's Mother Gave Him a Good Smack Upside the Head

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My colleagues Paula Boylard and Michael Walsh have declared Baltimore’s Mother of the Year, Toya Graham, a “bad parent” for slapping her rioting teenager upside the head. The essence of their argument: had she raised him better from the beginning, with good, solid biblical values, he wouldn’t have been there in the first place. That’s taking Bible-thumping to a new, bizarre level.

Scripture instructs, “Raise a child in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it.” Notice the stage missing in the middle: young adulthood. At some point the child takes the values you raised them with and tests them against what the rest of the world is saying. Some do it the way the young man in Baltimore did, by throwing on a mask, joining a violent mob and wreaking havoc on a city, threatening lives in the process. Others, perhaps raised in a more religious environment, develop covert addictions to Internet pornography or drugs. Most just paint their nails black for a semester and go goth. In any case, these young adults are all in the same boat of questioning and testing the values they were raised with in order to determine if they are true. Hence, the Bible instructs they will return to the truth “when they are old”er and wiser, thanks to all the mistakes they’ve made.

The Mother of the Year’s son was in the process of committing violent acts that could have caused bodily harm to innocent people. Why doesn’t that justify a slap to the head? Experts from a wide range of fields have concluded that what this mother did potentially spared her son from a life of crime.

This is especially ironic given Paula’s opinion regarding the unfair prosecution of free-range parents by social services. Most of the teens participating in the Baltimore riots are the product of free-range parenting. So if we’re going to argue over 10 year olds being unsupervised in parks, this situation leads to the question: Should this mother not have allowed her 16 year old to ever leave her sight? Or is the difference simply that the 10 year old is growing up in a white suburb, far away from the threatening influence of ghetto culture?

Both Paula and Michael essentially argued that Graham has been a bad parent from the beginning, because if she were a good parent, her son never would have been there in the first place. I suppose the same goes for parents of drug addicts, sex offenders, and everyone who ever made a bad decision as a teenager: Don’t blame them, it’s really all their parents’ fault. Or is it that the only kids who can be trusted to be independent decision makers are those white suburban free-rangers hanging out in “Drug Free School Zones”?

The proof is in the pudding. The Baltimore police commissioner complimented the mother’s use of a “parent’s ultimate crime-fighting weapon: shame.” If Graham really was a bad parent, her son would have simply continued rioting, or worse, turned his mother into yet another victim. Instead, her son responded the way any good kid who respected his parents would: he listened to her instructions, however harshly they were delivered. Think however badly you wish of Baltimore’s Mother of the Year: Toya Graham’s embarassed son is grateful his mother did what she did.

That kid just grew older and wiser in a day. If only the rest of the rioters would learn so quickly.