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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 23, 2017
John Wight
Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?
Patrick Cockburn
A Gathering of Autocrats: Trump Puts US on Sunni Muslim Side of Bitter Sectarian War with Shias
Shamus Cooke
Can Trump Salvage His Presidency in Syria’s War?
Thomas S. Harrington
“Risk”: a Sad Comedown for Laura Poitras
Josh White
Towards the Corbyn Doctrine
Mike Whitney
Rosenstein and Mueller: the Regime Change Tag-Team
Jan Oberg
Trump in Riyadh: an Arab NATO Against Syria and Iran
Susan Babbitt
The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes
Rannie Amiri
Al-Awamiya: City of Resistance
Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
The European Left and the Greek Tragedy
Laura Leigh
This Land is Your Land, Except If You’re a Wild Horse Advocate
Hervé Kempf
Macron, Old World President
Michael J. Sainato
Devos Takes Out Her Hatchet
L. Ali Khan
I’m a Human and I’m a Cartoon
May 22, 2017
Diana Johnstone
All Power to the Banks! The Winners-Take-All Regime of Emmanuel Macron
Robert Fisk
Hypocrisy and Condescension: Trump’s Speech to the Middle East
John Grant
Jeff Sessions, Jesus Christ and the Return of Reefer Madness
Nozomi Hayase
Trump and the Resurgence of Colonial Racism
Rev. William Alberts
The Normalizing of Authoritarianism in America
Frank Stricker
Getting Full Employment: the Fake Way and the Right Way 
Jamie Davidson
Red Terror: Anti-Corbynism and Double Standards
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, Sweden, and Continuing Battles
Robert Jensen
Beyond Liberal Pieties: the Radical Challenge for Journalism
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Extravagant Saudi Trip Distracts from His Crisis at Home
Angie Beeman
Gig Economy or Odd Jobs: What May Seem Trendy to Privileged City Dwellers and Suburbanites is as Old as Poverty
Colin Todhunter
The Public Or The Agrochemical Industry: Who Does The European Chemicals Agency Serve?
Jerrod A. Laber
Somalia’s Worsening Drought: Blowback From US Policy
Michael J. Sainato
Police Claimed Black Man Who Died in Custody Was Faking It
Clancy Sigal
I’m a Trump Guy, So What?
Gerry Condon
In Defense of Tulsi Gabbard
Weekend Edition
May 19, 2017
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Getting Assange: the Untold Story
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Secret Sharer
Charles Pierson
Trump’s First Hundred Days of War Crimes
Paul Street
How Russia Became “Our Adversary” Again
Andrew Levine
Legitimation Crises
Mike Whitney
Seth Rich, Craig Murray and the Sinister Stewards of the National Security State 
Robert Hunziker
Early-Stage Antarctica Death Rattle Sparks NY Times Journalists Trip
Ken Levy
Why – How – Do They Still Love Trump?
Bruce E. Levine
“Hegemony How-To”: Rethinking Activism and Embracing Power
Robert Fisk
The Real Aim of Trump’s Trip to Saudi Arabia
Christiane Saliba
Slavery Now: Migrant Labor in the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia
Chris Gilbert
The Chávez Hypothesis: Vicissitudes of a Strategic Project
Howard Lisnoff
Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain
Brian Cloughley
Propaganda Feeds Fear and Loathing
Stephen Cooper
Is Alabama Hiding Evidence It Tortured Two of Its Citizens?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail