By now, I imagine most people have seen the video of the mother yanking her son out of the Baltimore riots.
Dressed in a bright yellow top, she apparently saw her teenager on television and tracked him down. The footage shows her smacking, grabbing and yelling at her son.
In my house, about 90 miles from downtown Baltimore, my own teenage son sits in his basement room surrounded by electronics while I sit upstairs trying to understand the crisis that prompted the mom’s angry response.
My first reaction after seeing the video online was, “What does a mom who hits and screams at her teenage son expect? Our kids model the behavior they see, and this teenagers’ mom obviously gets violent when she gets angry.”
I expected to hear the same concerns from others.
When I saw the same footage on the national news the next morning, I was completely surprised that the mother’s behavior was praised – by television personalities, politicians and, most of all, other parents. I understood that she marched onto the scene with every intent of removing and reprimanding her son. What I didn’t understand was how no one else was concerned about how quickly she, like so many others in our society, too quickly resorted to violence to solve a problem.
I mentioned this to a colleague who remarked, “I would have done the same thing she did. If my son was in the middle of those riots, everyone would be calling me the angry mom who tried to smack some sense into her son.”
My co-worker was right to knock me off my judgmental high horse. I have no idea how I would have handled such a situation. I simply can’t imagine.
I am a white, middle-class woman living in the suburbs. I’ve never worried that my mild-mannered son would participate in an inner-city riot any more than I’ve worried that people will fear him based on the color of his skin and how he dresses.
I certainly don’t have the right to judge the decision of a scared mother in an extremely public and volatile situation.
But I do have the right to my opinion, and my opinion is that violence is NEVER the best way to resolve conflict no matter who you are or what position you hold.
Sometimes violence is an emotional reaction, sometimes it’s an expression of power and sometimes, in very, very rare situations, it is the only feasible response. But when there is violence, there is always pain, there is often loss, but there is never any peace.
And, as the brilliant Albert Einstein, who fled Germany in 1931 when Adolf Hitler took power, once said, “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”
I can only hope we can learn from his wisdom. soon. No mom should have to watch her son riot on television just as no mom should have to attend the funeral of a son who died in police custody. There’s no easy answer, but there is a place to start.
To me, that place is home.
Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.