At the beginning of the year, writer, activist, and possessee of a GREAT head of curls, Ben Faulding, was shopping for conditioner and other grooming sundries when he found himself facing down police officers with drawn firearms.
Fortunately, he lived long enough to tell his story and give me his blessings to submit my own take on it, but let's back up to what happened on the 3rd of this month.
Here’s a story about how I nearly just got killed by this cop. pic.twitter.com/3IYZFM9Ggh— Ziggy (@TheHipsterRebbe) January 3, 2018
Ordinary night, the new year's just started, and a local curly man decides he's going to do some good ol' fashioned post-gym shopping. He leaves his headphones on, since it should just be a quick in and out for the conditioner he needs, and why kill the K-pop vibes? I'm an f(x) fan myself, so I get it.
I was walking home from the gym. and realized I needed conditioner for my wild hair. pic.twitter.com/BOiMCOxAtt— Ziggy (@TheHipsterRebbe) January 3, 2018
I was wearing my new headphones; noise canceling. Sometimes I like to shut the world out and listen to music.— Ziggy (@TheHipsterRebbe) January 3, 2018
They’re dark and sometimes manage to hide in my curls. This is important later. pic.twitter.com/QiBQiovwtI
As soon as he's made his selection and is on his way to the counter, he's facing down the barrel of a gun
I looked at a couple items, like face wipes. But decided just to get her conditioner. I go to the aisle and was looking for 5 minutes before deciding on one.— Ziggy (@TheHipsterRebbe) January 3, 2018
I turn to go up the aisle to pay there’s a Nassau County Police officer standing there. With his weapon drawn.
And then another.
First he goes down another aisle. Then comes back...with another officer also with his weapon drawn.— Ziggy (@TheHipsterRebbe) January 3, 2018
The second officer screams at me to get on the ground. Now. I can barely hear them cuz of my headphones.
Because he didn't want to risk any "sudden movements", those headphones had stayed on—providing what I imagine to be an incredibly dissonant soundtrack to the situation.
Yeah that's...that's not quite the vibe here.
Thinking back to another deadly situation, he follows instructions and clarifies his headphone-handicap as best he can…
My headphones were still blaring, I could barely hear.— Ziggy (@TheHipsterRebbe) January 3, 2018
“I CAN’T HEAR BECAUSE OF MY HEADPHONES. PLEASE TAKE THEM OFF. SO I CAN FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS.”
All I wanted to do was follow instructions. Last thing I wanted was some mild mistake to end my life. Like with Daniel Shaver.
When he was shot.— Ziggy (@TheHipsterRebbe) January 3, 2018
Daniel, was crawling when he was confronted by Mesa, Az police. He was murdered by an officer when he made a mistake while following instructions. pic.twitter.com/FmrycuOwCp
Ironically enough, it takes him being handcuffed to feel a little more safe.
They put the bracelets on and oddly enough I felt a little safer after that. I was still screaming for them to take of my headphones which they did.— Ziggy (@TheHipsterRebbe) January 3, 2018
They searched my pockets and gym bag. I hadn’t taken anything so I was fine. They let me go.
And then the truth of why the officers came in so hot to begin with was revealed.
That’s the scary part. Here’s. The infuriating part. The clerk at the store called the police because she thought I was shop lifting.— Ziggy (@TheHipsterRebbe) January 3, 2018
When Nassau County PD got the call. It was for an armed robbery.
Armed. Robbery. First of all, how...how is an ARMED ROBBER robbing the shelves of a hair store, and not the register up front? Can y'all imagine..
"EVERYBODY DOWN ON THE GROUND, AND DON'T MOVE. I'M GETTING THIS CANTU, SO NOBODY TRY TO BE A HERO."
I mean...seriously. I know there's a market for hair products that "fell off the back of a truck", but it's not that deep.
Also? How is the clerk, who Ben let me know is black herself, sleeping at night knowing she didn't even try the fakey 'Can I help you find something?' routine before calling the police? I've worked in a head shop before, selling much less savory materials (yes, even if they're only meant for tobacco use, smoking is bad) and it's pretty easy to not have to go that far with loss prevention. The police force is intended to protect and serve, but that doesn't mean us civilians are meant to be totally inactive in non-lethal situations. Remember that incident when the cops were called because a woman "felt uncomfortable" with a man walking near her? Remember that Reddit thread where several police officers reported that they'd be contacted because people were asking them to PERFORM HITS on "undesireable", re: black, individuals in the neighborhoods of some particularly nasty pieces of work? I do. I can't stop thinking about them actually.
Whatever her reasoning, apparently, his gym bag knocked some products off the shelf, which he didn't hear, and that was enough to make her feel like the merch was being threatened. And whether it was her, or police dispatch that used the term 'armed robbery' why report the issue as something it wasn't?
When they came in, they were looking for somebody with a gun. That’s why theirs were drawn.— Ziggy (@TheHipsterRebbe) January 3, 2018
The bottle of conditioner I picked out was white. What if I had picked the black bottle?
What if they had seen it wrong?
Thank Gd nobody pulled a trigger. But I really want to know what happened. How was there such a colossal failure in communication?— Ziggy (@TheHipsterRebbe) January 3, 2018
He's already expected the comments of course. 'Why were you wearing headphones, don't you know it's important to be aware of your surroundings at all times, I'd have gotten away with it if it weren't for you darn millenials…and your avocado toast.' His counter to that is as humble as it is effective.
Listening to music on headphones so loud might not have been the smartest move, but it was almost deadly. And it shouldn’t have been.— Ziggy (@TheHipsterRebbe) January 3, 2018
Now listen, y'all. I'm a clumsy woman.
I like to say I have all the reflexes and grace of a lobotomized cat. And while I don't typically have a gym bag on me as I shop, it's not unusual that I have a basket of goods, or my laptop bag, or my 50" hips on me to swing into things and cause all manner of gravity-based havoc. I've always been afraid to use noise cancelling headphones in public, not so much because I just LOVE hearing catcalls and racial epithets as I'm walking around, but because I'm scared that if something DID happen, all my poor mom would hear was 'Well why was she wearing headphones?'. I keep the volume low and do the one bud in, one bud out thing if I'm shopping, but sometimes, darn it, you NEED to block the world out for your own sanity. I know that when my twist out is out, my curly hair absolutely obscures my headphones just like it does my earrings. But that should hardly be an executable offense.
Thank you. I know. One of the points I’d hoped to get across was that this could happen to anybody. (In addition to the racial aspect)— Ziggy (@TheHipsterRebbe) January 11, 2018
For those of you that still aren't convinced, I have to ask this.
Are you ACTUALLY committed to being at 100% attention at all times, for the rest of your life? Outside, at work, at home, as you bathe, as you eat, as you try to sleep? Newsflash, that's actually called 'hypervigilance', and it's a symptom of serious trauma. As much as you can attempt to hedge your bets and be cautious, things happen. I've installed anti-slip tracks on my tub, secured my bathroom rug to the floor, and I wash my feet with one hand FIRMLY on the grip in the tub. Did that prevent me from slipping on my moisturized soles, and breaking a toe because I was daydreaming about a good looking Cajun dude? Nope. Caution is great, but believing you can ever have ultimate control is to put your faith into an illusion.
The police officers in this case were fed bad information that lead them to come in to what they thought was an escalated situation, so I can't fault them for their initial response. But looking at how WRONG this whole thing could have gone down due in part to big hair and big music combining...I shiver. And after my own fashion, I pray.
Do we ever know when 'just one of those days' is going to be our last?
You can read more about the incident in Ben's own words at The Washington Post, and follow him for more justice and nerdery on Twitter , where you can also read the full version of his thread detailing that night.