FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Bizarre Compulsion of Black Men to “Reach for their Waistbands”

by

If police accounts are to be believed, there is a bizarre urge among young, unarmed black men to provoke their own murder by “reaching for their waistbands” when cops are aiming service revolvers at them.

Just this week we heard Officer Darren Wilson claim that one of the reasons he killed Michael Brown was that the young man “reached for his waistband,” and–in what I guess was just an incredibly weird coincidence–we heard Cleveland police claim they killed a 12-year-old kid with a toy gun because he also “reached for his waistband.”

But this odd compulsion is not a new one.  In 2011, fully half of all the young black men shot by LA cops were cut down because–again, if police accounts are to be believed–they too were “reaching for their waistbands.”  The epidemic also spread to Houston, where multiple police accounts cite the same excuse.  Oscar Grant, the young man killed by Oakland cops on a subway platform–and the subject of the movie “Fruitvale Station”–was shot for the exact same reason.

If police accounts are to be believed, this compulsion only exists among young black men.  I have been approached by angry or frustrated cops several times in my life–twice as an angry young protestor, eager to defy them– and have never felt even the slightest urge to reach for my waistband.  Maybe white skin contains a protein that protects against this terrible compulsion?
trayvons

And exactly what is it that these dead young men were hoping to find in those waistbands? Given the Cosby-condemned fashion of wearing saggy jeans, these kids have to reach pretty far down to reach their waistbands==a posture which would leave them completely defenseless against an armed cop.  What a powerful compulsion this must be!

I’ve spent a good amount of time on police ridearounds in New Orleans. If you want to see young black men, New Orleans at 3 AM is a good place to do so.  I remember one night as my cop hosts were rolling up slowly on  a kid they suspected of a robbery: no shirt, Saints cap, saggy jeans exposing his boxer shorts.  The kid sauntered on with an exaggerated cool: he  knew the cops were watching him, and the cops knew that he knew.  One of the cops poked my elbow, chuckled, and said: “Watch this.  That kid’s gonna break.”  “When?” I asked.  “The second he reaches down to hitch up his drawers.”  As I watched, another cop counted down: “Three seconds to drawa–hitchin’.  Two…one…”

At just that second, the kid reached down, hitched up his drawas, and “broke”–took off sprinting down an alley.  They pursued him for a while, then lost interest.  It was the only time I ever saw any gesture that was even vaguely waistband-related, and ithe kid only did it so that he could run without being tripped by his  low-slung Levis.

Two weeks later, one of the cops in that squad car–a funny guy, a seemingly decent guy, you would’ve liked him–was briefly suspended, pending the investigation of an “incident” in which he shot and killed a young black man in the black man’s own back yard.

The kid had reached for his waistband, if police accounts are to be believed.

My old squad-car host was cleared in a few days and returned to duty.

This has gone on far too long.  I am going to take my own mixed-race son to a neurologist today, if not sooner, to have him checked for traces of this horrible Waistband-Reaching Syndrome.  I’m concerned that, one day, it could get him killed…

…if police accounts are to be believed.

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

 

 

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

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
Joseph Natoli
The Politics of Crazy and Stupid
Sher Ali Khan
Empirocracy
Nauman Sadiq
A House Divided: Turkey’s Failed Coup Plot
Franklin Lamb
A Roadmap for Lebanon to Grant Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Colin Todhunter
Power and the Bomb: Conducting International Relations with the Threat of Mass Murder
Michael Barker
UK Labour’s Rightwing Select Corporate Lobbyist to Oppose Jeremy Corbyn
Graham Peebles
Brexit, Trump and Lots of Anger
Anhvinh Doanvo
Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones
Christopher Brauchli
Kansas and the Phantom Voters
Peter Lee
Gavin Long’s Manifesto and the Politics of “Terrorism”
Missy Comley Beattie
An Alarmingly Ignorant Fuck
Robert Koehler
Volatile America
Adam Vogal
Why Black Lives Matter To Me
Raouf Halaby
It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all
Rivera Sun
Nonviolent History: South Africa’s Port Elizabeth Boycott
Rev. Jeff Hood
Deliver Us From Babel
Frances Madeson
Juvenile Life Without Parole, Captured in ‘Natural Life’
Charles R. Larson
Review: Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail