Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How Sandra Bland’s Death Woke People Up to Black Women and Police Brutality

Sandra Bland
My mother and I had the talk. The same talk that African-American parents have with their sons about police brutality. My mom and I have had the talk before. It mostly entailed making sure I have my insurance and registration in my car at all times.  Be friendly with the cops when they pull me over so that things will go smoothly. The unjust death of Sandra Bland, 28, took the conversation deeper.

“Your goal when getting pulled over by the police, is to leave the situation alive, “ my mother said to me during our discussion about Sandy’s death.  I’m not sure if most Black women have had the talk about how to interact with the police, because the conversation on police brutality and race is focused on Black men.  The same goes for the Black Lives Matter movement. Although it was started by Black queer women from Oakland, the community made it Black-male centered.  This is one of the reasons why the #SayHerName, #BlackWomenMatter protests and hashtags were formed.  

About a month prior to Sandra’s death, a cop in Texas slammed 15-year-old Dajerria Becton to the ground while she was in a bikini. Initially there was outrage, then people got distracted with Rachel Dolezal’s crazy, passing as Black woman story. We should not have shifted our attention away from Dajerria Becton.  But Sandra Bland’s death is waking people up. I think her death will cause the Black Lives Matter movement to be more inclusive of addressing both Black men and women.

After the video of Sandy’s arrest was released, what I heard from Black women in person and on social media was, “She could’ve been me.”  I didn’t notice this reaction from Black women when people like Mike Brown, Eric Garner and Freddie Gray were killed.  The reaction I heard was, “That could’ve been my son, my husband, my father, my brother.”

I cried as I watched the video of Sandy’s arrest. Watching her being arrested because Officer Brian Encinia wanted her to put out her cigarette, and then lie that she resisted arrest broke my heart. Some people have called her arrogant. But if she was a white man, they would’ve called her a strong and confident civilian who knew his rights. Sandy wasn’t arrested for a cigarette or arrogance (and since when is arrogance illegal?).  Sandy died because the officer had a small ego. And God forbid an intelligent, confident Black woman who knew her rights would challenge him. So add racism and sexism to the mix of reasons why she was arrested. If only he had swallowed his pride, kept his prejudices off the job and just gave her the ticket.

 I cannot imagine the shit police have to deal with.  I have family members who work/have worked in law enforcement so I’ve heard some stories.  Yet with all of the criminals on the loose, Officer Encinia arrested an unarmed, young woman in a summer dress and sandals. All of the criminals on the loose, and he pulled her over for changing lanes without a signal. She was a threat because she was Black, and she stood up for herself because she knew he had no valid reason to arrest her.  

All I could think while watching the video was, “She died for nothing. NOTHING.”  But I was wrong. Sandra Bland died over nothing, but her death was not in vain.  The video and her story hit the hearts of people worldwide. Since Sandra’s death, more stories about Black women dying in police custody have been on my newsfeeds. Finally! The conversation around Black women being victims of police misconduct has increased.  For example, the case of former Oklahoma City Police Officer Daniel Ken Holtzclaw, who has been charged with sexually assaulting at least seven women, is receiving growing attention. I  read the victims were all Black women raging in age from 17 to 58.


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