Imagine having to relocate cross-country for a brand new job. Its something many of us have had to do. Thousands of emotions run through your mind at once from uncertainty and trepidation to optimism and gratitude, but ultimately the promise of newness and opportunity drives you to take on new challenges in uncharted lands. Now imagine that all of those dreams and aspirations turn into nightmares when that uncharted land turns into hostile territory. Imagine that a road trip instantly turns into a violent encounter with those charged with the obligation to protect and serve. Imagine you are transformed from bright, vibrant, and youthful into a hashtag in a matter of moments. You would be Sandra Bland.
Who is Sandra Bland?
Sandra Bland was a 28 year old Illinois native who moved to Texas to follow her dreams, and wound up being relegated to a past-tense discussion. She is the latest victim of a quick-tempered, overly reckless officer of the law that turned a routine traffic stop for "failing to signal" into a violent arrest and a subsequent death in a questionable manner. Sandra is the latest in the line of black lives that we, unfortunately, have to remind the world actually matters.
Who is Sandra Bland? According to friends and family, she was educated and ambitious. Those qualities failed to protect her from becoming the embodiment of all that is wrong with today's police system. She became, in an instant, a combination of every horrible incident we have witnessed since the killing of Michael Brown. Witnesses say the entire ordeal took a turn when she was slammed to the ground face-first by a male officer, double her size, pinned down with the officers knees drilled in her back and neck, and placed in an arm lock that resembled more of a Ronda Rousey move than a legal restraint (reminiscent of the McKinney pool party). She then proceeds to repeatedly complain about not being able to feel her arms despite the officers persistenceto maintain a position that is causing her discomfort (Eric Garner). You have an arrest being filmed by passer-by citizens and police officers attempting to bully them into ending the recording and documenting evidence of the arrest. She is a citizen placed under arrest and sustaining life threatening injuries while in custody and the officials attempting to convince the world that those injuries we self inflicted (a la Freddy Gray).
Who is Sandra Bland? Inevitably, to the conservative media, she will be an angry black woman who lashed out at police and ultimately committed suicide out of an overwhelming feeling of guilt. To the police, she is another opportunity to cover up the most recent example of police brutality by creating doctored police reports, colluding to block the release of key evidence, and slut-shaming the victim. To Al Sharpton, she is his most recent opportunity to stand in the spitlight with his pressed perm and baggy skin while he, once again, proclaims to be the voice of black America. For the legal system, she will likely be the latest test to see if they can circumvent the law and perpetuate an American circumstance where police are seldom Ely held accountable for their transgressions.
Who is Sandra Bland? For Black America, Sandra Bland is the latest reminder that for us, participation in normal daily activities can be life threatening when dealing with police. It is confirmation that no matter how educated, no matter our employment and economic status, a busted tail light, a rolling stop, and in her case "failing to signal" can result in death. It is an affirmation that African Americans nationwide have a legitimate case to fear for their lives during any rendezvous with an officer of the law.
Who is Sandra Bland?
Sandra is John Crawford and Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and Walter Scott. Now, Sandy is a hashtag, a memory, another name added to the list, and a face to attach to a struggle against violent policing. Now she is the source of sleepless nights for a family who unknowingly bid her goodbye for the last time before she set out to improve her short lived future. Hopefully, her passing will have meaning. Prayerfully, someone will be held accountable for her death. Time will be the ultimate decider if her name will bring change.
Now, we all know who Sandra Bland is when a week ago we couldn't say the same. What's more troubling is Sandra Bland could be you tomorrow.