AFRICANGLOBE – On January 7 in Philadelphia, 16-year-old Darrin Manning was on his way to play in a basketball game when police approached him and his teammates. Startled, the teens scattered. A police van picked them up soon enough.
What happened next is not exactly clear, but the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that “video shows Manning walking around the side of the wagon, where an officer appears to push him up against the vehicle.”
“Later,” the Inquirer wrote, Manning—a straight-A student with no criminal record—”can be seen on the ground in what [Police Commissioner Charles H.] Ramsey called a struggle with officers.”
Manning’s attorney Lewis Small told the Inquirer that after Manning’s arrest, “a female officer grabbed the teen’s genitals during a pat-down search and pulled, causing a testicle to rupture.”
That a “pat-down search” could be so violent as to cause a boy’s testicles to burst may seem like an anomaly. But this—and many other “frisks,” which are legally allowed only on the outside of clothing—is not just a quick check for weapons. People do not hide guns beneath testicles. While we may not hear such stories very often, teenagers in areas where stop-and-frisk is common know that a penis grab is a regular part of the whole, degrading process.
Last year, I wrote that humiliating public sexual assaults by police are a part of life for young Black men in some of New York’s poorest and most heavily policed neighborhoods. Here are some of the examples I used to give readers an idea of the trauma youths experience at the hands of NYPD officers:
A Black teenager in Bedford-Stuyvesant described how embarrassed he was to have “old ladies” watch as his pants landed around his ankles while police searched him. A 17-year-old in the Bronx explained that police “go in my pants. You’re not supposed to go in my pants.” Being touched by a female police officer can be especially upsetting for adolescent males. “It’s annoying because it doesn’t matter what kind of cop it is, female or male, they’re gonna frisk you. If you say something to the female about it, the female says something to you like, what? I can do what I want. And they still frisk you. You can’t say sexual harassment, nothing,” 18-year-old South Bronx resident Garnell told me last year, adding, “And they go hard, grabbing stuff they’re not supposed to.”
A New York attorney told me last year he has video of a cop saying he just “credit card-swiped” a man’s ass—without gloves, naturally. What kind of gun can fit between two butt cheeks? And why are cops touching penises, anyway? The answer is simple: They’re not looking for guns, but hoping to make arrests. While stop-and-frisk is only legally allowed for the purpose of uncovering weapons, it has been linked to far more low-level summonses and pot busts than guns. As 18-year-old Lower East resident “Twin” recently told me, “They run their hands down your ass crack because they think you’re hiding drugs there.” In the public housing on Baruch Street, he says police hang out until they see someone suspicious enough to grope.
Darrin Manning has undergone surgery, but may no longer be able to father children. As the Inquirer notes, he has also “been charged with three misdemeanors: reckless endangerment of another person, simple assault, and resisting arrest,” charges his attorney called outrageous.
The humiliation of Black teens who helplessly endure groping by police officers is not simply a Philadelphia or New York City experience; stop-and-frisk is a tactic used, and often abused by police departments across the country. Stop-and-frisk is often discussed in terms of data that suggest racial profiling, or evidence of lack of charges said to prove youths stopped were often simply minding their own business.
While these narratives are true, they do not always do justice to the devastating reality that is life for hundreds of thousands of young Black men. Police are publicly physically and sexually assaulting young Black men simply because their skin color is associated with criminality. In a country with a culture that decries child abuse and molestation, we have a different set of standards for young men who are Black.
By: Kristen Gwynne