The Death of Sandra Bland: Jim Crow vs. Civil Rights Part Two
Since learning of Sandra Bland’s passing, I have experienced the full gamut of emotions. It took the first 24 hours for me to process that my sorority sister had actually been found hanging in a jail cell in 2015. They said she committed suicide but common sense wouldn’t allow me to accept such an explanation, not after witnessing her arrest. I don’t need algebra to solve this problem because basic math says it doesn’t add up. I’ve cried about her death daily. While I did not know her personally, her treatment and subsequent death felt like a terrible blow to everything I am. She was a black woman, a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., was passionate about life, was very vocal about her rights and had PTSD. That’s me. Back in May I had a negative interaction with an Atlanta police officer at Hartsfield-Jackson airport. He was verbally aggressive and I responded in kind with some bold questions. He behaved as if I didn’t have the right to speak at all. That’s how Sandra Bland was treated. She could be me. I could be her.
This is daily living for some of us. Many black women are perceived and spoken to as if we are aggressive when we stand up for our rights. The way we are often treated by law enforcement sends the subliminal message that we had better fall into line, act right and keep our mouths shut. Abusing the black man sends a message to the black woman that he cannot protect us. If he can’t speak up for us then we must speak “louder” for ourselves. When this happens, we are perceived as being combative. We catch the double whammy because we are black and women.
During Sandra’s arrest, I could hear her saying “Oh yeah, you’re real strong huh?” That indicates to me that she felt what she perceived to be an excessive amount of force being applied to keep her held into position for the dangerous crime of failing to use her signal and talking back to a cop. I can’t begin to say how many videos are floating around the internet of white people yelling at cops and they are not immediately put into handcuffs or physically accosted. We have to ask ourselves, why is that? Do you remember when there was a time that you’d see lots of comedians making jokes about black people and their interactions with police? Notice that you haven’t seen those for a while. Those funny video clips have been replaced with video clips of black men and women being arrested, slammed to the ground, shot, beaten and brutalized in other ways. Now the conversation has turned into “How to SURVIVE a Confrontational Cop”. Imagine that. An entire community that you may or may not be part of understands the confrontational cop culture quite well in what Americans like to call the greatest nation on earth. That doesn’t compute.
If I say to you that #BlackLivesMatter and your response is that #AllLivesMatter, you are attempting to override my statement by saying “I can’t count your life alone as enough…but everyone else’s including yours means something.” It’s kind of like one of those “if you add it all up” things. If you’re one of those who say that we should just stop breaking the law you’re part of the problem too. What you’re really saying is that we get whatever we deserve when we break the law when in fact the law says that we are entitled to due process. That due process is what is being taken away from us time and time again. Sandra had a right to speak her mind. She had a right to ask questions and none of those officers had the right to take that away from her. Each of you officers took an oath to PROTECT AND SERVE. Unless there are quantifiers in that oath you each OWE ME that same protection and service that you offer everyone else. I do not deserve to be treated more aggressively just because I said something you didn’t like. To the rest of the world, I can’t say it enough. I have PTSD but I promise you that if I ever die in police custody, I did not commit suicide. Rest in peace my dear Soror, you will never be forgotten. Even though you are not here, you are still making change.
#BlackLivesMatter #MyLifeMatters #IfIDieInPoliceCustody#SayHerName #SandySpeaks