Baltimore teenager smacked by 'hero mom' says he's learned his lesson

Baltimore teenager smacked by 'hero mom' says he's learned his lesson
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The Baltimore teenager who was smacked by his angry mother during Monday's riots — a moment seen in a video that quickly went viral — says he learned a lesson from his public shaming. But some are questioning the celebration of her tactics.

In a pair of interviews, Michael Singleton described the confrontation.

"I was just like, 'Oh, man. What is my mother doing down here? Why would she be down here?'" Singleton told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "But when I heard, 'Put that brick down,' I was like, 'Oh, that's my mother.'"

On Tuesday, Toya Graham, the 42-year-old single mother of six, told CBS News that she didn't want to see her only son become "a Freddie Gray," the 25-year-old who died in police custody earlier this month.

"I felt as though my friends were down there," the 16-year-old said of his decision to join the rioters. "A couple of my friends had been beaten by the police, killed by the police. So I felt as though I needed to go down there, show my respect."

"I was so angry with him that he had made a decision to do some harm to the police officers," Graham told Cooper. "I just lost it at that point."

Or, as Singleton put it, "It was just World War III from right there."

As the clip of the maternal smackdown circulated, Graham was soon branded a "hero mom."

"Forget the National Guard," the New York Post declared on its front page. "Send in the moms."


Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts seemed to agree.

"I wish I had more parents who took charge of their kids tonight," Batts said Monday.

“I wish all of the parents of Baltimore would take on her spirit and go pull your children out of the streets,” Pastor Jamal Bryant told Inside Edition.

Graham even got a nod from White House press secretary Josh Earnest, who called the confrontation a "powerful expression about the role that parents can play."

But not everyone believes Graham's "tough love" should be applauded.

"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--- out of them," Joan Walsh wrote in Salon.

"Why is America celebrating the beating of a black child?" Stacey Patton wrote in the Washington Post. "It's not surprising that a black mother in Baltimore who chased down, cursed and beat her 16-year-old son in the middle of a riot has been called a hero. In this country, when black mothers fulfill stereotypes of mammies, angry and thwarting resistance to a system designed to kill their children, they get praised."

Graham told "CBS This Morning" that she doesn't feel like a "hero."

"I don't," Graham told "CBS This Morning" on Wednesday. "My intention was just to get my son and have him be safe."

For his part, the teen said he understands why his mom smacked him.

"I understand how much my mother really cares about me," Singleton told ABC News. "So I'm just going to try and do better."

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