So I’ve been seeing a lot of people post links to this video of this unknown woman (who, for the purposes of this blog, I’m going to call Mama Jackson, because, I’m sorry Miss Jackson…) beating the holy hell out of her unknown son (who I’m going to call JuneBug, because… well, if you’re black, you know that kid’s name is either JuneBug or Bootsy and I had to pick one) during the Baltimore Riots. She became an instant meme last night, and I’ve been seeing a lot of people post links to the video today calling her the mother of the year, etc. etc. etc. And then I’ve seen some others saying that it’s sad, because clearly this is where this kid learned to be in an endless cycle of violence, etc. etc. etc.
So here’s the thing. I watch that video and I see a great mother. But not for the reasons you probably think. So, seeing as how we’re at the end of the semester and I don’t have to teach again for like 3 more months, lets have a nice little internet lesson on “How to Close Read News Footage: Black Man Edition.”
Ok, before I get started here. Let me get one thing straight, for anyone who doesn’t know. I’m not anti-riot. I hesitate to go so far as to say that I’m pro-riot, but as I explained in detail during the Ferguson thing, I think there are lots of good reasons to riot and sometimes I think it’s the only way. But this isn’t really about the Baltimore Riots per se. It’s about JuneBug and Mama Jackson,
First, for those who haven’t seen it yet, let me link to the footage of the event:
Next let’s look at some of the news articles depicting this event. Note, I’m going with actual NEWS sites here. Not the random memes with slogans that I’ve seen or random people commenting. These are sites that consider themselves, and are popularly considered LEGITIMATE news media sources:
- KABC News out of LA: http://abc7.com/news/video-angry-mom-beats-son-suspected-of-rioting-in-baltimore-on-live-tv/684791/
- WPXI News of of Pittsburgh: http://www.wpxi.com/news/news/national/caught-camera-baltimore-mom-slaps-son-throwing-roc/nk4qc/
- CNN: http://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2015/04/28/baltimore-mom-slaps-rioter-son-newday-daily-hit.cnn
- Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/baltimore-mother-notices-her-teenage-son-rioting-pulls-him-from-the-crowd-to-slap-him-2015-4
Now the first thing you might notice is that NONE of those news outlets are out of Baltimore. I had to dig to find footage actually from Baltimore. More on that in a bit.
Ok, so maybe I’m a cynical bastard — Ok, I’m definitely a cynical bastard — but, I was immediately dubious of this footage. At first I thought maybe it was staged. The main reason was, there wasn’t really any “rioting” going on. It was just a bunch of black people standing around and then Mama Jackson going batshit crazy on young Junebug while everyone else sat around and watched. And frankly, I’ve seen the Mama Jacksons of the world smack the shit out of the Junebugs of the world before and I sort of get it. But it’s not news. So lets look a little closer.
All of the stories say that the kid was rioting, or that the mother dragged him away from the rioters. But like I said… what riot? Have you ever seen a riot? If not, turn on the TV or click on literally any other link on any of those sites that has “Baltimore” in the title right now, and you’ll see some perfectly good riot footage. Do you notice a difference?
Looking at the video again. There’s not really a riot going on. People are saying that because there’s rioting in general out there. And because all the people are black in the picture. And in our current cultural landscape, a bunch of black people standing is just sort of assumed to be a riot right now. We just automatically jump to the word. And that’s part of the problem with systemic racism. It doesn’t matter how it got started or what intentions are. Culturally, we assume and react to that assumption.
And I think it went viral because “Hey look video of niggers being crazy!!!!”
So instead, I watched the video about a dozen times. A lot of it’s bleeped, but I listened to what I could hear her say, and read between the lines. I watched the expressions, or lack thereof of all the other bystanders. I watched the cops, in a line WAY across the street, mostly ignoring the event. And I think I understand what happened.
What I think probably really happened was a bunch of people were standing around watching the police presence and Junebug there decided that he was going to be “gangsta” and start something. So he probably threw a rock, no one else… And Mama Jackson immediately jumped into action and pulled him away because “what the fuck is wrong with you, you idiot? Are you trying to get shot?”
And that right there is good patenting! Mama Jackson saved Junebug’s life. At the very least she saved herself having to take off work and go down to the precinct to bail his dumb ass out.
It took me a while, but I actually WAS able to dig up the ORIGINAL post. The news site that actually shot the footage of Junebug and Mama Jackson. WMAR out of Baltimore: http://www.abc2news.com/news/crime-checker/baltimore-city-crime/video-mom-beats-child-for-throwing-rocks-at-baltimore-police. And the entire article is as follows:
This Baltimore mom saw her son throwing rocks at police on television.
That didn’t sit well with her.
The video shows the mother repeatedly striking her boy, chasing him as he tries to walk away.
Notice something? They never used the word “riot.” Not once. That is actual good reporting. Here is what we saw. Boom. The problem is everyone else in the world added the narrative of a riot. Not the real narrative of a woman PREVENTING a riot. Because that would be less fun. (Also, those people are black, and there’s 100 of them, so there must be a riot. Just saying.)
So I don’t think there was a riot (here), and I don’t think Mama Jackson is in the habit of raising children in a violent household. I think Mama Jackson knows, that when you have a fucknut for a son, no matter what his age (and lets face it, all teenaged boys are fucknuts from time to time), then it is your responsibility to slap the stupid out of his head in times of extreme circumstances. Because you love him… and you’re saving his life.