Though I gather that Ms. O'Neal is not a regular church-goer, her historically rich column neglects to reference Proverbs 13:24 ('Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them') to glean the actual meaning and value of Ms. Graham's "moma bear" behavior. To clarify, Ms. Graham's slaps were not borne out of repression, fear or violence, but out of a loving desire to literally "wake him up" to poor choices that the boy intuitively knew were wrong. Why else would her son wear a hoodie and face mask to obscure his identity?
Beyond the standard things that every child needs like a loving family, a home, and a fully belly, every child needs to learn the boundaries of appropriate and safe behavior. Indeed, that is one of the fundamental responsibilities of being a parent. In psychological terms, children lack a development called the "internal parent," an invisible mechanism of the psyche that governs a mature adult's actions and ideally curbs his wilder or darker impulses.
Walking in Ms. Graham's shoes, in search of her wayward child among a potentially violent street crowd, this mother's act was wholly appropriate—even instinctual—to "slap some sense into him." It was because she cares and never about causing pain or doing bodily harm. This is the confusion that causes the columnist O'Neal her ambivalent stance on the matter. In any case, the column concludes correctly that Toya Graham should not be demonized for what we can all agree was, in a moment of extreme stress, a very human reaction.
Re. "The Baltimore mom slaps her son for the ages," Lonnae O'Neal's Column, The Washington Post