It’s Been Three Years Since Sandra Bland’s Death, And Nothing Has Changed
July 13th, 2018 marks the three-year anniversary of Sandra Bland’s death. Bland, passed away at the age of twenty-eight — in the summer of 2015, after being pulled over by a Texas State Trooper, Brian Encina for a traffic violation. What was supposed to be a simple procedure that should’ve ended with Bland being allowed to continue on to her new job — escalated into a life and death scenario that was captured on film.
The brutal treatment that Sandra Bland received at the hands of a law enforcement officer would never have been exacted on a White woman.
Encina was obviously disappointed and enraged at the notion that the Black woman he was hoping to gleefully humiliate and demean with orders and insults — was actually aware of her rights as a citizen and was more than willing to exert them.
Bland challenged what was happening to her, and that ultimately highlighted the branded “angry Black woman” label that is habitually assigned to women like us, who are Black and forthright in presentation. At no time was she threatening or throwing a fit in the face of the officer. She was simply trying to prove the point of how this encounter was rapidly becoming a situation that was getting out of hand.
White women in America are free to be excessively rude to authority, and somehow they manage to survive those episodes without a scratch. They’re not forcibly removed from their vehicles and thrown to the concrete ground. They’re not manhandled with enough force to reveal their private parts.
White women are allowed to use their privilege as the currency for their ability to be angry and impatient when confronted by cops — who are remarkably calm and able to show constraint — even when someone like former Port Authority Commissioner of of New York and New Jersey — Caren Z. Turner basically loses her shit at the audacity of being pulled over.
Thank God she was White enough to walk away unscathed — and I’m guessing her Ivy League based daughter learned a good lesson about how to handle tense situations with cops. She is now secure in the knowledge that as a White woman — there’s basically nothing she has to fear when it comes to free expression — which can be delivered in any form necessary.
However, young Black women don’t have the ability to express themselves in any manner they choose, because the minute we open our mouths — we’re subject to extreme brutality that could end in our demise.
And even when we do survive the beating and the pummeling — the scars are embedded in our memory along with the horror of having White adult males pound our bodies with fist and might in full view of asshole gawkers.
This was the terrifying treatment that twenty-five-year-old Chikesia Clemons had to bear. Her visit to a Waffle House in Saraland, Alabama, was supposed to be a pleasant affair, but it quickly turned into a violent appointment once the White workers called the cops.
A misunderstanding that erupted over the cost of utensils should have been resolved by the manager on duty, but because Clemons is a Black woman with questions that needed answers — her case became a federal offense that required the assistance of a SWAT team to deescalate the potentially life-threatening climate.
The video garnered impressive views in a matter of minutes, and as it was shared and the comments grew — there was a disturbing feeling of familiarity at the sight of a Black woman being physically assaulted.
At the time of the incident — The #MeToo and Time’s Up initiatives were gaining traction and the hope was that both organizations would extend their expertise to include violence against all women — regardless of whether it’s sexual or not.
But — evidently what befell Chikesia Clemons doesn’t count in the realm of injustice because Black women are typically victims of assault at the hands of policemen and the general assessment is that we deserve it.
As we acknowledge another searing reminder of how Sandra Bland was brutalized, and eventually murdered by a system that’s rigged against people of color — there’s also the tragedy of realizing how nothing has changed.
Three years later, we’ve elected a White supremacist as president, and the race war has evolved into a full-fledged attack on Black people.
White people are conveniently exercising their privileges in ways that are meant to ensure that the law will always come to their rescue — no matter how much resources are wasted on bullshit 911 calls.
Black pain has become a profitable business that media outlets cling to for clicks and baits with real time footage featuring bored White housewives berating Black children or old White men cursing out anyone who isn’t White.
And as a Black woman in America, I’m left with the fear and frustration that stems from the likelihood that what happened to Sandra Bland can easily happen to me.
Black women are challenged with the task to be our own supporters and protectors because society deems us unworthy of being viewed through humane lenses.
We saw it with Diamond Reynolds, when she and her baby girl witnessed the shooting death of Philando Castile back in July of 2016 — a year after Bland’s deadly encounter with a White officer.
Reynolds was in the passenger seat of the car while her boyfriend was strapped in the driver’s seat — bleeding to death as the White officer who fatally shot him — brandished his gun in the faces of the two adults — as the toddler in the back seat softly comforted her mother.
These are the atrocities that Black women have to contend with, and White women are able to skate by without threats to their existence, and secure in the blissfulness that comes with claiming ownership to the fabric of feminism — even though it’s abundantly clear that White feminism also spearheads the intoxicating principles of White supremacy.
As the years pile up — only time will tell if Bland’s unfortunate circumstances that suffocated the life of a Black woman who was too young and vibrant to be reduced to a hashtag and a viral video — can ever be converted into the lifeline for generations of young Black women who will be spared the possibility of her fate.
An upcoming documentary: Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland is scheduled to make its debut on HBO — and will hopefully shed an affectionate light on a woman who was Black enough to know that she wasn’t White enough to escape the trappings and betrayal of a country that didn’t love her back.
My burden is the glaring truth that the same thing that happened to her, could happen to me, and it’s the bond that I share with a woman who aches my heart each time I envision what her life would’ve been like as a thirty-something — making a healthy contribution to her community.
Those are the treasures that America is allowed to steal each time gun shots pierce the back of young Black men running for their lives and a Black woman is thrown into a cell to rot.
The privilege of Whiteness continues to sustain the darkness.