Why the #baltimoremom and #sendinthemoms memes marginalize black women’s activism

via Baltimore City Paper, which reports on how the evolving narrative about the uprising in Baltimore marginalizes women who are at the heart of the protests against police brutality in the city following the death of Freddie Gray from a spinal injury incurred while in police custody.  “Many organizers at the forefront of the protests are women,” the article reports, “However, the visibility, or lack thereof, of black women in the protest narrative has also been problematic,” as “media tend to focus on the presence and actions of men more than those of women.”

The lone exception over the past twenty-four hours has been the extensive coverage of Toya Graham, the “forceful Mom” who saw her son Michael among a group of protestors throwing rocks and police and grabbed, hit, and screamed at him while pulling him out of the crowd.  That’s my only son, and at the end of the day I don’t want him to be a Freddie Gray,” she said. “But to stand up there and vandalize police officers — that’s not justice. I’m a single mom, I have six children. And I just choose not to live like that no more. And I don’t want that for him.”

Since then, social media has been flooded with messages praising the actions of this “mother of the year,” using the hastags #baltimoremom and #sendinthemoms.  (I find it interesting that so far, it’s mostly white women who are proclaiming that more black moms need to be like Toya Graham and slap some sense into their boys. Never mind that this perpetuates stereotypes about black, female headed households that originated with the Moynihan report in the 1960s).

The Baltimore City Paper makes it clear that the moms are already there and they are engaged in important, constructive community activism that has deep roots in African American history (like the Civil Rights activist Fanny Lou Hamer, they are sick and tired of being sick and tired).  Let’s make them the mothers of the year.

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