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Ms. Graham,

I get it. You want to protect your son. You don’t want to be the crying mother on TV who lost him to senseless violence. I get it. I have a son and some of the same fears as a Black mother. This, though? Beating him at all, much less publicly, isn’t going to stop that. You’re being exploited by the very people who would call your son Michael a thug and throw him away with other Black men and women just as quickly as they see him walking down the street. Here’s how:

“He was embarrassing himself by…”

No, he wasn’t. He was standing up for what he believes in. Have you listened to his words?

“My friends were down there, my friends have been beaten by police, killed by police, so I felt I needed to go down there and show my respect.”

These are not the words of a tempestuous teen hellbent on doing something for the sheer joy of it. These are the words of a young man who understands the disgusting way he and people who look like him are treated by the police force not just in Baltimore, but nationwide. He understands how wrong it is that he is seen as a problem simply for daring to exist. He has compassion for his friends who have been wronged and wants to stand in solidarity with them. How is this embarrassing to him? I suspect what you meant to say was “he’s embarrassing me,” which is a sad sentiment. How are you not proud of having a son who isn’t afraid to stand up, not only for himself, but his people?

“I was so angry with him that he had made a decision to do some harm to police officers.”

Are you just as angry about the police doing harm to those who look like your son? If not, I question where your loyalties lie. Please don’t think because you are being praised this week, you aren’t looked at as just another single mother bringing more problematic, fatherless children into the world. The same people who are giving you accolades now, are the same people who would’ve called Child Protective Services on you a month ago for the same exact behavior. They are also the same people who look down on you and others like you daily. The difference this week is your usefulness to their ultimate aim: emasculate Black men and take their fight away. You are being trotted out as the mother of the year because White people are happy to see a Black mother controlling her Black son, rendering him useless to the movement for justice and hoping his story will keep others from standing up.

“As long as I have breath in my body I will always try to do right by Michael and show him what’s going on out in society doesn’t have to be you.”

Do you realize how impossible that is for you to ensure? Your son is a Black man. There is no amount of protection you can give him to overcome this fact. He can go to college, get five degrees and a wonderful job, but still be pulled over by the wrong cop while doing nothing wrong. He knows this, and I suspect you do, as well. Being prepared and fighting for change is more profitable than burying your head in the sand.

“She didn’t want me to be like another Freddie Gray.”

I hate to break it to you Ms. Graham, but Michael is already another Freddie Gray. We are all Freddie Gray. We, as Black people in America, are all one step away from a fateful ride in a paddy wagon. I’m proud of your son for saying ENOUGH, and I wish you could be, too.

*Quotes taken from Toya Graham and her son Michael Singleton’s interview with CNN April 29, 2015. (http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/29/us/baltimore-mother-slapping-son/)