FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Who’s Afraid of Black Men’s Eyes?

by JOHN ESKOW

On Memorial Day, in Miami, a 14-year-old black kid named Tremaine McMillan was walking down the beach with his mother–and bottle-feeding his puppy–when cops blocked his path in ATVs.  A few minutes before, the kid had been rough-housing in the surf with a friend, and the cops wanted to question him about it.

Moments later, the cops body-slammed the boy—still holding his puppy—onto the beach, got  him in a chokehold, and arrested him for resisting arrest.

So far, so sickeningly normal.

But in this case, the police’s cover-story for the body-slam, the chokehold, and the kid’s subsequent arrest—that he was “clenching,” or, in other accounts, “flaring” his fists–was hard to sell, due to one small but troublesome fact: cellphone video showed that the kid never stopped cradling his puppy.  So the police spokesman invoked a truly terrifying specter:  the teenager, he said, was giving the cops “dehumanizing stares.”

Well, of course you can’t blame battle-toughened Miami cops for starting to panic when a 14-year-old black male–armed with a puppy, mind you–starts to look at them funny.

But the truth is that these so-called “dehumanizing stares” are really “humanizing” stares—stares that forced the cops to realize that they were not successful in terrorizing this kid, and that he was committing that ancient Southern offense of looking a white man in the eye.

We can’t help but remember the statutes against “reckless eyeballing”, under which, in 1951, Matt Ingram–a black tenant farmer in Yanceyville, North Carolina–was charged with assault with intent to rape a white girl, although he was 75 feet away from her at the time.

And in good conscience we will never forget Emmett Till, slaughtered for looking at—and, supposedly, whistling at—another white girl.  (Till’s torture and murder were heartily defended by feminist Susan Brownmiller, who said that the glance and (alleged) wolf-whistle was “a deliberate insult just short of physical assault, a last reminder to Carolyn Bryant that this black boy, Till, had in mind to possess her.”

Nice touch, eh, that “black boy?”

And to the ranks of  Miami cops,  wealthy New York gender-theorists, and rural racists we can of course add the name of George Zimmerman, the morbidly obese Chaz Bono-lookalike who killed Trayvon Martin because—according to transcripts of the Mommy-I’m-scared call he made to police—“He was just staring…looking at the houses…now he’s staring at me!”

Readers with more stomach than me for literary theory will no doubt be familiar with the academic racket centered around the concept of “the male gaze.”  Once I  struggled in good faith to understand it, but then my ADD kicked in and I went outside to play catch with my daughter instead.  So I don’t have any intellectual framework for this rage I feel today, sensing that for all the distance we’ve supposedly travelled, we remain stuck on Square One in America—a ragged patch of ground defended by certain cops, certain feminists, and vigilantes of all stripes against That Crime That Goes By Many Names….a powerless black man looking at white folks.

John Eskow is a writer and musician. He wrote or co-wrote the movies Air America, The Mask of Zorro, and Pink Cadillac, as well as the novel Smokestack Lightning. He can be reached at: johneskow@yahoo.com

 

John Eskow is a writer and musician. He wrote or co-wrote the movies Air America, The Mask of Zorro, and Pink Cadillac, as well as the novel Smokestack Lightning. He is a contributor to Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence.. He can be reached at: johneskow@yahoo.com

Weekend Edition
February 12-14, 2016
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“The Martian”: This Heroism is for Chinese Viewers Too
Charles R. Larson
No Brainers: When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain
February 11, 2016
Bruce Lesnick
Flint: A Tale of Two Cities
Ajamu Baraka
Beyonce and the Politics of Cultural Dominance
Shamus Cooke
Can the Establishment Fix Its Bernie Sanders Problem?
John Hazard
The Pope in Mexico: More Harm Than Good?
Joyce Nelson
Trudeau & the Saudi Arms Deal
Zarefah Baroud
The Ever-Dangerous Mantra “Drill, Baby Drill”
Anthony DiMaggio
Illinois’ Manufactured Budget Crisis
Colin Todhunter
Indian Food and Agriculture Under Attack
Binoy Kampmark
Warring Against Sanders: Totalitarian Thinking, Feminism and the Clintons
Robert Koehler
Presidential Politics and the American Soul
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: The Banality of Evil on Steroids
Cesar Chelala
Is Microcephaly in Children Caused by the Zika Virus or by Pesticides?
February 10, 2016
Eoin Higgins
Clinton and the Democratic Establishment: the Ties That Bind
Fred Nagel
The Role of Legitimacy in Social Change
Jeffrey St. Clair
Why Bernie Still Won’t Win
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Aleppo Gamble Pays Off
Chris Martenson
The Return of Crisis: Everywhere Banks are in Deep Trouble
Ramzy Baroud
Next Onslaught in Gaza: Why the Status Quo Is a Precursor for War
Sheldon Richman
End, Don’t Extend, Draft Registration
Benjamin Willis
Obama in Havana
Jack Smith
Obama Intensifies Wars and Threats of War
Rob Hager
How Hillary Clinton Co-opted the Term “Progressive”
Mark Boothroyd
Syria: Peace Talks Collapse, Aleppo Encircled, Disaster Looms
Lawrence Ware
If You Hate Cam Newton, It’s Probably Because He’s Black
Jesse Jackson
Starving Government Creates Disasters Like Flint
Bill Laurance
A Last Chance for the World’s Forests?
Gary Corseri
ABC’s of the US Empire
Frances Madeson
The Pain of the Earth: an Interview With Duane “Chili” Yazzie
Binoy Kampmark
The New Hampshire Distortion: The Primaries Begin
Andrew Raposa
Portugal: Europe’s Weak Link?
Wahid Azal
Dugin’s Occult Fascism and the Hijacking of Left Anti-Imperialism and Muslim Anti-Salafism
February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Neve Gordon
Israeli Labor Party Adopts the Apartheid Mantra
Kristin Kolb
The “Great” Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail