By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
The city of Baltimore has been in an uproar over the homicide of Freddie Gray, a black man who suffered a lethal spinal cord injury while in police custody. In the wake of the homicide and its consequent protests, a video has gone viral that shows Toya Graham, mother of 16-year-old Michael Graham, physically attacking her child for participating in a street protest. The video spurred the hashtag #MomOfTheYear on social media, with many praising Toya’s violence against her son as proper “discipline.” For her part, Toya says she simply was terrified her son would become another Freddie Gray by participating in the protests, and acted out of desperation. “That’s my only son,” Toya explained, “at the end of the day I don’t want him to be a Freddie Gray,”
You can view the video in full here:
While Toya’s sentiment is understandable (and the fact that she felt she had to act this way just to save her child’s life a tragic reminder of the reality of white supremacy), her actions are nonetheless disturbing. In the video, Toya screams obscenities at her child (such as “get the f*** over here”) while repeatedly striking him in the face with her fist, violently shaking him, grabbing his neck, and shoving him. As Kathleen Harter, executive director of the Consortium for Children’s Services in Syracuse, says, “It sends a terrible message. The ‘Mom of the Year’ beats her child? I don’t think so. Had she thrown herself into a burning building or thrown herself in front of police bullets and saved her son’s life — maybe. But she’s not ‘Mom of the Year’ because she kicked his a**.”
The fact is, Michael is a minor and Toya slapped, shook, grabbed, and shoved him. Which means that Toya physically abused her child. Toya’s actions, however understandable or relatable, fit clearly and unequivocally under the definition of physical child abuse. The American Humane Association defines physical child abuse as “non-accidental trauma or physical injury caused by punching, beating, kicking, biting, burning or otherwise harming a child,” even if it “results from inappropriate or excessive physical discipline” or is provoked by “crisis situations.”
What Toya did is illegal. It is child abuse.
But that didn’t stop HSLDA’s satellite organization ParentalRights.org from lauding Toya for abusing her child. (HSLDA founded ParentalRights.org in 2007.) On April 29, ParentalRights.org shared an article on their Facebook page titled “‘Mom of the Year’ Baltimore mother praised for smacking rioting son” (Facebook link here, archived PDF here). The organization added their own text, “Parents: The ultimate crime deterrent. #baltimoremom”:
Tracy Klicka MacKillop, wife of the late HSLDA attorney Chris Klicka, chimed in with praise for Toya assaulting her son, saying she was “so proud” of Toya’s actions:
Almost immediately people began questioning both the wisdom and rightness of ParentalRights.org and Tracy Klicka MacKillop so blatantly praising an act of child abuse:
People pointed out the hypocrisy of praising Toya assaulting her son if they would not praise a father similarly assaulting his daughter:
However, defenders of ParentalRights.org were not to be deterred. They argued that black boys like Michael are “animals” that need to be trained:
Or they just admitted they would be ok if a father similarly assaulted his daughter and that a father “wailing on” his daughters was parenting, not abuse:
Tracy Klicka MacKillop did not back down, arguing that the child abuse was a “courageous” reaction:
ParentalRights.org, for their part, also did not back down. They responded that Toya’s assault of her child is evidence that she is a “good mom”:
So there you have it. HSLDA’s ParentalRights.org believes that the physical abuse and assault of a black child is evidence of good parenting.
Libby Anne, The Real Travesty of the “Hero Mom” Story