Sandra Bland’s Death: An Act of Racism?

Sandra Bland’s death and arrest were the result of a racial outburst and power struggle caused by an officer of the law, who we, as society, trust unconditionally. That is, until recently. The issue of racial crimes and outbursts matter, because in this country everyone is said to be treated equally without discrimination due to ethnicity-or the social construct of race in the form of racism. With acts like this involving racial reasons being committed by those who we allow to have so much power to protect us, and are ultimately supposed to make the correct choices for everyone involved, then the larger public looses faith in them as leaders and as our authority. Sandra Bland’s death was not the first due to racial discrimination; however, it raised a large uproar in this country—as it should.

Sandra Bland was an African-American woman who had recently moved to Texas for a new job opportunity. Bland was a daughter, a friend to many, had few enemies, and was making a new start for herself. She was happy with her new start to a new life. One day, July 10, Bland was pulled over for a minor traffic violation—failure to signal a lane change. She was asked to put out her cigarette by the officer, who was Caucasian, because he saw it as a threat; I don’t know about you, but what officer feels threatened by a cigarette? Also, if this young, cooperative woman was of a different race, perhaps Caucasian, would this routine traffic stop have gone down hill as fast? I highly doubt an officer of the law, who is of the same race, would have acted the same in this situation.

The routine traffic stop only escalated from there. According to dash cam video from the officer’s car, Sandra Bland was pulled out of the window of her car, had her face slammed into by the officer, and finally, slammed on the ground before being forced into the officer’s vehicle. After the officer then took matters into his own hands, claiming Bland had assaulted him, Bland was arrested. Bland was then booked; however, there were many failures of the justice system, in more than one way: she was arrested under poor circumstances, potential problems were overlooked on her jail intake forms, there were a lack of in-person checks on her cell, and no one had an urgency of getting her out of jail. As well as pitiable justice system, Bland was subject to go through a mental health check once she was booked into custody. However, Bland failed to receive the court-ordered mental health exam, which the county sheriff implemented a two part exam in 2007. This exam was given to every person taken into custody prior to Bland’s arrest. If this exam would have been implemented for Bland, at the appropriate time of her booking, her death could have been prevented and she would most likely be alive today. Although it is not proven, the failures of the judicial system and the failures of certain procedures could, in fact, be the sole cause of Bland’s death. Also, these failures could have been the cause of an underlying power struggle due to racial reasons by law enforcement.

In a matter of three days in her jail cell, Bland was found dead due to hanging with the use of a plastic bag—one you would find at a local grocery store. Sandra Bland’s arrest and death was due to an act of pure racism and power over others. The arresting officer clearly demonstrated a need for power, and one individual stated the reason violence against the black community exists is due to the white men seeking power and the “need to repress the Womanist Spirit to reaffirm a paternalistic white supremacist patriarchy”, which is a clear example of racism in this society.

According to the local county sheriff, there is no longer racism in Waller County, which Sandra Bland was arrested and held. However, this county held the most recorded number of lynchings in the late 19th and early 20th century. Also, there are still separate cemeteries for black and white people, Waller County is still monitored by the Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act, and the sheriff—who made this statement—was suspended, four years prior to this event, for allegations of racism. The examples of current racism in this county disprove the sheriff’s statement and cause more reasons to question the motive for Bland’s arrest and death. I personally think that the sheriff’s statement was asinine due to the fact that there is racism all over the country, and the world. I was baffled that this officer of the law would state such a thing, considering the so-called police brutality that had occurred in the northern part of the country.

On the other side of the spectrum, there were no cameras in the jail, in which Bland’s cell was located; thus, her death could have been a suicide. On the day of her death, Bland was let out of her cell to be informed of her bond and she was able to make a phone call. During this phone call, it was said, and proven through video footage, that Bland wiped her eyes and put her eyes to her face. Bland was then shown back to her cell, only to be discovered dead hours later. This video footage was crucial in this situation, due to the numerous death threats—claiming Bland was dead during her mug shot—toward law officials. These threats were put to rest with this video footage because it proves Bland was, indeed, still alive after her mug shot, due to the time stamp at the bottom of the video. Again, although this information does not directly state that Bland’s death was a homicide due to racism against her, this could be skewed to say just that. Personally, I do not believe that this video footage gives any insight as to the details of Bland’s death; however, it could also be that this video does, in fact, show how Bland’s death was a suicide. This could be argued due to the fact, provided by the law enforcement involved, Sandra Bland was left in her cell alone and that cameras in the hall show no other persons entering the hall to her cell. This provides significant evidence in support of her death being ruled a suicide; however, even though these cameras showed no one else entering the hallway of Bland’s cell, there still were no cameras directly facing her cell.

There are multiple factors that disprove Bland’s death was a suicide. First, when Bland was brought to the precinct to be booked, she was taken in through the back entrance, which lacked a security camera; thus, this could have lead to any foul play or mistreatment. Second, a plastic bag had hanged Bland, which would have been far too weak to hold a six-foot tall woman off the ground. Third, this bag had to be tied to something on the ceiling to be high enough to lift her off the ground, which I’m not completely convinced there was such thing. There are many more reasons to explain how this death could have been a homicide and not a suicide; however, this could be said for any death. To further investigate the events that took place in Bland’s death, outside officials and attorneys—who are African-American and Caucasian, so as to prevent any further injustices due to racism—have stepped in to better explain this tragedy.

The arrest and death of Sandra Bland was a tragedy and, ultimately, a crime caused by racism. This woman, who was only seeking a new start and a new life, is not longer alive today due to racial acts by law enforcement. The law enforcement of this county, in which we, as society, place hefty amounts of trust and power into, took the law into their own hands and sought for more power and authority than they deserve. This power struggle ended in the death of, not just one, but also multiple African-American women and men in custody of the Waller County jail. These injustices are clear results of racism in society and people of certain ethnicities seeking power over other ethnicities due to the color of their skin. I strongly believe, as well as everyone else should, that all people should be treated equally despite their ethnicity or skin color. This in turn means that racism in this society needs to be laid to rest. Although there have been many deaths in the past caused by racism, it took Bland’s death to open up people’s eyes and to stand up for what they believe is right. This issue of racism not only applies to law enforcement or authority figures, but it applies to every individual. Racism occurs in everyday life and it is a tragedy that a social construct can dictate people’s decisions and behavior. If this world was free of racial discrimination, and everyone acted as though skin color did not matter, this world would be a much better place to life in.

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