Am I the only one who sees that the emperor once again has the backside of his hospital gown flapping open? I’m talking about the accolades being heaped on the mom who yanked her masked son out of the chaos surrounding the recent riots in Baltimore. From Whoopie Goldberg to Bill O’Reilly, a steady chorus of praise is growing for the feisty lady whom many are now calling the “Mother of the Year.” I wouldn’t be surprised if a book deal or reality show is already in the works.
I’m suggesting that the cause of truth may be better served viewing her as yet another tragic victim of the systemic problems that help fuel the riots, and perhaps even more insidiously, an example of how far America has lowered the moral bar for people trapped in the blighted housing projects that dot our country.
(Important note; too important to be relegated to a footnote that many will miss: I’m not going to refer to #BaltimoreMom in this article by her real name, though it is now well-known. That’s because I don’t want to focus on her as a person, one I’m loathe to shame given the likely hand she’s been dealt by circumstances over which she has had little control. Instead, I’m using #BaltimoreMom as a symbol of the prevailing thought in and about today’s inner-city black culture.)
First, credit where credit is due. She clearly was genuinely worried about her son. That’s a good thing. She claims she wanted to protect the police and help maintain law and order. That, too, is laudable. She was willing to enter a chaotic situation and take charge. Kudos yet again. And she’s not afraid to discipline and show tough love towards her son. My kind of gal that. I admire and thank her on all four counts.
But seriously, how many times did she drop the f-bomb in the process, worse the mega mother-f bomb? Five or six times in the thirty seconds I saw. I’m guessing it was more than that, with even more bombs dropped when they got home. It’s not a stretch to imagine that the lad and his five sisters have been exposed to that type of vulgarity their entire lives.
Big deal, you say. They’re just words. These kids are used to it—it’s part of their culture. But isn’t that the point? When people—and particularly young people, whose character and brain architecture are in formation from conception right through adolescence—are routinely exposed to vulgarity, ugliness and ill-manners, that is more often than not how they will turn out. Vulgarity becomes vocabulary. Thug talk helps beget thugs. And thuggery is a big part of the Baltimore riots.
Let’s be honest. A white woman talking that way and beating on her kid would be called trailer trash and an abuser. Protective Services would be called. But a black woman? She gets labeled “the mother of all moms” by CNN. That’s not praise—it’s affirmative insult, like walking up to Mrs. Lincoln in the cemetery and telling her how lovely she looked in black.
It’s both interesting and telling how many reports praising her actions used the word “beating” to describe the way she dealt with her son. Seriously? Do we really think beating kids is a good thing? (Maybe, faced with a mob on a mindless rampage, and civil authorities reduced to hapless, helpless gawkers, some of us do like the idea of beating them. And so, for granting us a moment of catharsis, an abusive mother is transmogrified into a hero. Something to think about.) A pro football player recently caught similarly wailing on his son faced a suspension and an avalanche of public vitriol and humiliation. But because she’s a woman—nay, a black woman—she doesn’t just get a pass; she is celebrated.
Look, I believe in corporal punishment when it is appropriately (calmly, lovingly, redemptively, biblically) administered. But her angry, nearly out-of-control hitting was none of that. The matriarchal culture that dominates black inner-city America—more on that in a moment—afforded her all kinds of protection and moral authority. Some firm, clean words and dragging him home by the ear would have been just as effective in getting him out of a bad situation.
That’s what a true “Mother of the Year” would have done.
And how likely is it that this was a one time thing? That she hasn’t beaten on her children like this before? Sure, it’s better than providing no discipline at all. Maybe. But it’s a far cry from what’s needed to produce future MLKs who will champion peace when chaos rears its ugly head.
But this is all nitpicking compared to the last point I want to make, one that—from what I can tell—has been completely passed over by both press and pundits—save Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, who gave it all of five minutes.
#BaltimoreMom describes herself as a “single mom with six kids.” Now, here I dare not tread lightly because I don’t know her full story. (And extensive research online yielded nothing about her past in regard to the six children, an anonymity I find curious—if not indicative—of the politically requisite lowered bar of expectations.) Maybe she’s a widow and had all six of her children by her deceased husband. Should that be the case, I will be forever sorry for having impugned her character by implying otherwise. But the principle here is far too important not to raise. Arguably, the single greatest factor contributing to poverty, crime, school drop-out rates and just about every other social ill that gave rise to the Baltimore riots is fatherlessness. And in Baltimore, as in most of America’s inner cities, more than four out of five babies born to black mothers will be raised without a married father in the home.
If #BaltimoreMom has contributed to these statistics, then at bottom she’s part of the problem. And honoring her as “Mother of the Year” is not only a disingenuous and sobering example of lowered expectations, but also an insult to any woman of her “race”—the human one—who abstains from sex outside of marriage and strives to create a nurturing home environment for her children, one that is free from vulgar language and slapping around.
These are the true “Mothers of the Year.”
Author’s Note: Yes, I have stepped into it with this one. I know—I truly know—it’s all very complicated and #BaltimoreMom is in large part the victim of a failed cultural experiment and deserving of compassion. Believe me, as a former pastor whose parish was the DC area, and who worked with people like her (including adopting an unmarried young lady into our family for the last two trimesters of her pregnancy) my heart aches for this woman and her children. But dumbing things down—worse, making her and others like her feel good about their sinful lifestyles—is not true love and compassion. It is a form of indifference, even hate. I also know this would be a lot easier to take if I weren’t a white guy. But I’m done playing the PC game. Our country is in freefall. I waited a couple of days for someone like E.T. Williams or Star Parker to step up to the plate on this. They didn’t, so I did. If you want to come after me simply because I’m a white dude, talk to the hand. Lastly, and most importantly, in one interview, she said in reference to her son and his problems that she wasn’t “like that anymore.” If she has repented of the lifestyle described above she has my utmost praise and respect. Until I was twenty-six, mine wasn’t any better. In fact it was worse—egregiously so—considering I was blessed to be raised in a far more nurturing environment. I had no excuse. We should all be grateful and awestruck by the forgiveness and the new life is available to us in Christ. If #BaltimoreMom has sincerely repented, and can get to work on her language and approach to child discipline, I’ll be happy to throw her name in the hat as a real “Mother of the Year.”