Chris Rock once infamously joked that while the general consensus is no one should ever raise a hand to others, “there’s a reason to hit everybody.” Old men. Babies. Politicians. Neighbors. You can catch a right hook for most anything. “Ain’t nobody,” the comedian said, “above an ass-whooping.”
Somebody should have passed along that memo to the “good Samaritan” in this video. Looking to “help” a young mother calm her crying toddler as she lunched in the cafeteria of an Albany hospital, the woman asked if she could be of assistance. But instead of walking away after the mom told her to “F*** off!” the woman pulled up a seat at the mom’s table and proceeded to talk to her child.
Words were exchanged. Curses flew. So did some spit. And when the mother leaned in and pointedly told the woman to get up from her table, stop talking to her kid and leave her personal space, the woman swatted at the mom’s hand, and, well, the mom proceed to slap the taste out of the woman’s mouth.
Of course, security was called. And within seconds, half the lunchroom full of white folks and men in uniform surrounded the mother (she appears to be Latina), looking on with scorn and making whispered demands and getting the mother even more agitated while the “Samaritan” continued to sit at the table, antagonizing the mother and chastising her parenting skills.
The slap isn’t, in my opinion, what’s most egregious about this incident, though. Not be a stretch. It’s the audacity of the woman and all the other good white folk in the room—the videographer included—who:
- Leaped to all kinds of conclusions about the mother and her childrearing skills.
- Assumed they knew better than the mother did about how to deal with her own baby’s tantrum.
- Had not one second’s worth of give-a-damn about calling the cops on her—a move that could have easily landed the mother in jail and her baby in child protective services.
Of course, I’m clear that it’s never, ever okay to curse out or slap strangers in public or to behave in such a way in front of children. As good as those Miss Sophia Moments (a la The Color Purple) feel, I know that this kind of release could easily have serious consequences—particularly for women of color and our children. Truly, you put yourself in an incredibly vulnerable position, particularly when white folk and their judgment and itchy 911 fingers are involved. Our nation’s foster care system is full of children who were put there because “good Samaritans” took it upon themselves to “intervene” in the parenting choices of Black and brown folks.
But that’s how white privilege and supremacy works, isn’t it? It gives some white folk the thought and right to meddle in the affairs of mothers of color, then stand around in their “perfection” while moving the heavens and the earth to punish us for not parenting their way.
That’s what allowed the “good Samaritan” to walk across a crowded cafeteria, offer her “help” where there was none needed, and smugly post up at the table, her hands folded on her lap while she waited for security/police/authorities/fellow white folks to watch the loud, foul-mouthed child be carted away—not for abusing her child (last I checked, letting a toddler cry is a valid mom tactic for getting said child to understand that tantrums are a no-go), but for refusing to cede control to the good white lady. Privilege also made it quite easy for the Greek chorus of men filming and joking about and judging the mother to co-sign the actions of the “good Samaritan” and leap directly to “the police should arrest her for assault,” without acknowledging what was right there on the camera: it was the “good Samaritan” who physically touched the mother first.
Go ahead and watch the video at the 40-second mark.
The mother didn’t hit first. She hit back.
SHE. HIT. BACK.
She didn’t instigate the incident. She didn’t ask for help. She told the woman she was good and that she had full control over her child. She asked the woman to leave her and her baby alone. She made clear that what she was doing both with her child and on the phone was none of anyone’s business. And she is right about all of that. Maybe she was on the phone (in a hospital), telling a loved one that a family member was dying, or that a friend was on the mend or, hell, that it was Tuesday and she was tired and she needed a break. IT IS NO ONE’S BUSINESS. And certainly no one’s right to assume that she’s a bad mother.
But no one can ever SEE wrong in the white woman’s actions. Only the young mother of color. Wow.
I wish we saw how security handled the matter. I’m going to assume that the little sister was told to leave the premises and that the officers stood around WITH the white woman talking about the uncontrollable, foul mouthed mother and her “shortcomings.” I’m also going to assume that no one questioned whether the “good Samaritan” was a criminal or a child snatcher or plain crazy and in need of detaining while authorities figured out whether she was trying to hurt the mother and her baby.
I know one thing, though: the “good Samaritan” knows now that “ain’t nobody above an ass whooping.” I’m not saying I would have reacted in the same way. But, as a mother of color who’s faced off against the judgment of white strangers, I’ll borrow from another Chris Rock joke to say this: “I understand.”
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.