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‘Smack Heard Around the World’ shows frustration behind Baltimore riots

They are calling it the smack heard around the world.

When Toya Graham, a single mother of six, saw her son on the news participating in the riot that erupted in Baltimore earlier this week, she took quick action.

Graham waded into the middle of the chaos at Mondawmin Mall where dozens of young people were engaged in an all-out riot and confronted the boy. Graham repeatedly struck him and demanded that he take off his mask.

Graham is being praised by some as the “Mom of the Year” and condemned by others as a child abuser and partially to blame for the violence that was on full display in Baltimore this week.

OPINION

Certainly an argument can be made on both sides of this issue.

But the frustration that erupted into smacks upside the boy’s head mirrors the outbreak of riots in Baltimore over the controversial death of yet another young black male at the hands of police officers.

As TV cameras captured young people burning, looting and destroying property in their neighborhoods, here was this black mother pummeling her son in an effort to get him to heed her pleas for him to go home.

Graham told reporters she had already warned her son not to participate in planned demonstrations that she had the common sense to know would likely get out of hand.

Like most teenagers, the boy didn’t listen.

Once when I was going through a rough time with my youngest son, I had a similar incident.

I had given him a harsh warning about what would happen if he cut class that day and dropped him off at his high school and even watched him walk through the front door.

Later, when I was driving to work, I spotted him casually walking down the street with a group of other teens when he should have been in class.

Before I knew it, I had jumped out of my car and was chasing after him. When I caught up to him, I did exactly what Graham did.

It wasn’t my finest parenting hour, but I got his attention.

Obviously, there’s no justification for the rioting that’s happened in Baltimore.

But the only time a controversial police-involved shooting of unarmed black men is treated like a crisis is when people resort to violent protests.

Last summer, when demonstrations exploded into nightly riots in Ferguson, Mo., over the police-involved shooting of Michael Brown, who was unarmed, then Attorney General Eric Holder took the unprecedented step of going to the St. Louis suburb and flooding the area with federal investigators.

But as President Barack Obama pointed out on Tuesday in his remarks about the Baltimore riots, this isn’t a new issue.

Yet officials in urban areas have let police tensions simmer long enough to reach the boiling point.

Frankly, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy’s plan to meet with residents and community leaders in all 22 police districts, which he calls a listening tour, is long overdue.

The riot in Baltimore was more than senseless violence.

It was a desperate plea to be heard.

Right or wrong, Graham did what she thought would make a difference.

“That’s my only son and at the end of the day, I don’t want him to be a Freddie Gray,” the mother told CBS News.