Salon’s Joan Walsh Calls ‘White’ Praise of Toya Graham ‘Sickening’

Winston Churchill said that “the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” I would like to modify that a bit, and say that the best argument against democracy is a brief perusal of any Salon article.

Salon’s editor at large Joan Walsh published a piece Wednesday titled: “The hideous white hypocrisy behind the Baltimore ‘Hero Mom’ hype: How clueless media applause excuses police brutality.”

There’s a tremendous amount of idiocy to digest in this piece. Rather than tackle it all, I’ve decided to take two of Walsh’s main assertions—which I believe are her most egregious—and offer a rebuttal.

But first, for the uninitiated, the “hero mom” is named Toya Graham. She shot to fame just several days ago when she was caught on video identifying her son among the rioters in Baltimore, and subsequently going off on him, repeatedly shoving and smacking him.

Much of the media was quick to praise Graham, but Walsh sees it differently. Oh no, she’s not criticizing Graham, nor is she criticizing any black person who would praise Graham, she seeks only to criticize the “white mainstream” who have praised Graham’s actions.

Let’s get to it:

“The hypocrisy of the white mainstream applauding Graham is sickening. Let’s be honest: many white folks are reflexive critics of the greater frequency of corporal punishment in the black community.

Witness the media horror at Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson beating his young son. If Graham beat her child like that in the aisles of CVS, you can be sure somebody would call CPS.”

Walsh is making a false equivalency when she compares the praise of Graham’s actions with the disapproval of Peterson’s. This false equivalency compares the two actions in a vacuum, in which the variables surrounding each action are not taken into account.

What Peterson did to his son (as shown in the photo below) was over the line. Peterson’s son was only four years old, and as such, could not have been doing anything terrible or illegal. Peterson’s punishment was far too severe for any bad behavior on the part of a four year-old. Here’s a photo from TMZ.

TMZ crime photo

Additionally, Adrian Peterson is 6’1″ and weighs 217 lbs, whereas the average four year-old boy stands at 3’4″ and weighs 40 lbs.

Given all of this information, the “media horror” was not unjustified.

Compare this to Toya Graham’s actions. Fox News reports:

“Graham was home watching television coverage of the riot Monday night when she saw a young man in a black hoodie, throwing rocks at police officers. And although his face was covered, she recognized him. It was her 16 year-old son. She ran out the door and into the street, and she found the young man.”

Graham—as you can see in the video—is much shorter than her nearly adult son. She’s not a 6’1″ running back striking a small child. Walsh proclaims that if someone saw Graham “beat her child like that in the aisles of CVS,” she wouldn’t be praised. First of all, REALLY?! Second, the circumstances that led to Graham shoving and hitting her son were entirely different than random child abuse “in the aisles of a CVS.”

Graham saw her nearly adult son participating in riots, hurling rocks at police officers (officers who did not harm Freddie Gray, by the way), while wearing a mask to conceal his identity–because what he was doing was illegal. She was outraged, and rightfully so. She may have lost control, as she herself said, but it was parental tough love.

The Peterson and Graham situations are not comparable in any way. Reading Walsh proudly condemning the “reflexive” criticism of Peterson in contrast to the “white folks” praise for Graham is like watching a substandard attorney make her closing argument.

I would feel pity for Walsh if she were slow, but she’s the editor at large of a major publication. Then again, reading Salon on a regular basis, I do see a certain slowness of mind among the staff. So maybe I should pity Walsh.


“The debate over the moment Graham says she ‘lost it’ is complex. There’s a parallel black debate going on that, as always when it comes to racial issues, is richer and more nuanced. But anyone white who’s applauding Graham’s moment of desperation, along with the white media figures who are hyping her ‘heroism,’ is essentially justifying police brutality, and saying the only way to control black kids is to beat the s**t out of them.”

Uh, first off, ouch. It’s just a bit condescending to all non-black people to say that “as always,” racial discussions among black people are “richer and more nuanced.” Walsh literally uses the words “as always,” meaning that non-blacks cannot ever have as deep and nuanced a conversation about racial issues as blacks.

While I acknowledge that whites will not ever be able to have the same personal and emotional experiences as blacks, most human beings have what’s called “intellect” and “empathy,” which are what give us the ability to distinguish right from wrong, and understand situations outside our personal sphere of experience. But I guess whitey can’t ever get it right.

More disturbing, however, is Walsh’s assertion that the “white” praise of Graham’s actions is equivalent to “justifying police brutality.” Um…no? Oh, must I elaborate? The Freddie Gray investigation is being dealt with in an expeditious and thorough manner. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Anthony Batts have stated multiple times that they are doing everything they can to get to the truth. The six police officers involved have already been suspended, pending the investigation, and Batts claims all investigative information will be turned over to prosecutors on May 1st.

As far as can be seen, this is as above-board as you can get in terms of a corruption investigation. Therefore, the riots are not justified. Hurling rocks at innocent police officers who wake up every day to protect and serve is wrong. Plain and simple. Unlike in Walsh’s fever-dream fantasy, not all cops are racist pigs.

Given that procedure is being followed, no one should be rioting. Since no one should be rioting, when a mother sees her son behaving like a savage, she has every right to go beast-mode on him.

Graham’s son was not rioting against injustice, he was raging against nothing. As such, his behavior deserved the smackdown his mother gave him. To praise Graham’s reeling in of her son’s delinquency does not justify police brutality because the brutality in question is being dealt with in an expeditious and thorough manner.

The actions of Graham’s son are akin to going after the family of someone who’s done you wrong. It’s mafia-style revenge on a political scale, and Graham was stopping her son from taking revenge against innocent police officers. In that way, she is a hero. What other parents of young rioters would do that? I’m guessing not many.

Walsh lives in a world in which black people are always the victims, and white people are always the oppressor. While that is the case some of the time, it’s not the case all of the time, and to argue that is not only foolish, but dangerous.

Maybe I should’ve been a liberal. You can be so much less intelligent, yet rise through the ranks. Example: Joan Walsh. If Walsh can be editor at large of Salon, I could be President by now.