I was not going to write about Baltimore, even in passing. That’s the first thing you need to know. I think that the post I wrote about Ferguson (and still stand by) captures my feelings about Baltimore as well. Then yesterday, I gave my opinion about the mom – you’ve all read about this mom, and/or seen the video – who publicly struck her child, again and again, in an effort to get him off the street and away from his participation in the rioting. My response wasn’t even about her really….. it was about the greater public opinion that was lauding her as a hero.
Finally, a mom doing parenting right, the world seemed to scream.
It made me profoundly sad, and quite honestly, confused.
The very same people who recognize that violence is not the answer in retaliation to the police somehow find violence an appropriate response when it’s coming from a parent?
It bothered me all day. And when a page I follow asked the question, “So what do you think of this mom that’s being called the Mother of the Year?” I answered,
“Violence in response to violence is still violence, and it isn’t the answer.”
I received a handful of comments, but the very first one read:
Spoken like a true person who has no idea what it’s like being a single black mother.
And she’s absolutely correct! I don’t know what it’s like to be a single black mother. I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to be a single black mother. I don’t pretend to know what kind of fear, and anger, and horror was coursing through her body to prompt her to react that way. I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to fear for my teenage son every time he leaves the house. I think about it, and I can’t even imagine.
But I can’t really apologize for being born white.
And I can’t really apologize for not condoning violence (yes, I think that what I saw on that video was violent)
And it’s obviously not me trying to speak for a single, black mother… but just to speak as a human. A human mother with four kids who thinks that the cycle of violence has to be learned – and therefore can be broken – and passed down from generation to generation. A human who realizes that if a mom uses physical punishment as her biggest parenting tool (likely because her parents used physical punishment as their only tool) that unless she makes a conscious effort to seek alternatives, her children will also learn that an appropriate response to anger and frustration is physical violence. A human who will always always stand on the side of the children, and their right – as any other citizen – to not be hurt at the hands of their parents.
Somewhere, somehow, the cycle needs to stop. I don’t think violence is the answer. I don’t think violence is ever the answer.
I will apologize for one thing though. I apologize for not knowing the right thing to say; for not knowing the right way to express my rather complex feelings about all of this. For not being able to understand, ANY of it. I think that compassion would go a long way, for all involved…. including this mom and her son! but starting with the young man who entered police custody alive, but somehow ended up dead.
Compassion for the 10s of thousands of people, that the media doesn’t want to show us, who are peacefully protesting.
Compassion for the police who are being physically harmed for doing their job.
Compassion for the innocent people who live in that city who are just trying to go about their lives amongst the unrest.
Compassion for the loved ones of all of the above, who wake up each morning with fear in their hearts.
And yes, compassion for the people who know no other way to voice their frustration and anger and deep-seated wounds than to act out in a physically violent way. Somewhere along the way, we failed them. Somewhere along the way, they learned that violence was the answer.
My fear is that if we keep offering praise and encouragement – instead of alternative tools and support – to parents who are physically violent towards their children, that the tide will never change.
It’s terrible what’s happening… not just in Baltimore, but all across the country. And it starts with the kids. It’s starts with how they’re treated; it starts with what we’re teaching them. Change starts with us, as their parents. It’s a difficult and uncomfortable and painful conversation to be had for sure, but it’s one that needs to happen. White, black, single, married, gay, straight. I don’t care who you are or where you’re from or what your history is. Have the hard conversations, ask yourself the hard questions. Recognize that nothing will ever get better if we’re fighting amongst ourselves, instead of getting real, thinking of the children, and realizing that we’re all in this together.
We’re all just doing our best to make sense of something that makes no sense.