I am Sandra Bland: ‘Sick and tired of being sick and tired’

JULIANNE MALVEAUX | 8/10/2015, 10:16 a.m.
Had I ever met Sandra Bland, I am sure I would have liked her. She is described as an advocate ...

(NNPA) – Had I ever met Sandra Bland, I am sure I would have liked her. She is described as an advocate for justice who had embraced her purpose to fight racism. She is described as a sister who knew her rights. She was well-educated, assertive and a resource for her people. She was dragged out of her car for failing to signal a traffic lane change because Texas Highway Patrol Trooper Brian Encinia chose to abuse his power and violate her rights. Because he could.

Three days later, Bland was dead. The police call her death a suicide. Her family is disputing the autopsy. Encinia is responsible for what happened, since there was no reason to arrest Bland and put her in jail.

Bland was an “uppity” Black woman from suburban Chicago who would not kowtow to Encinia. Perhaps he preferred a woman who said “yes, sir,” who humbly accepted her ticket. Certainly, while it was not against the law to take a smoke, he preferred that Bland put her cigarette out. Why? Because he needed to order a woman around who asserted her rights. Because she knew what her rights were.

Bland, the Prairie View A&M University graduate, was stopped in Waller County, Texas, for failing to signal at a lane change. She was ordered to put out her cigarette, and she refused. She was told to get out of her car, and she had the nerve to assert her rights and to ask why.

Encinia was clearly, exceedingly and outrageously out of order. His voice escalated to unnecessary shouting when he yelled, “I will light you up. Get out. Now. Get out of the car.” He grabbed her, threw her on the ground, and shoved his knee in her back so sharply that evidence of bruising was visible in her autopsy three days later. He arrested her with the false charge of assault because she did not acquiesce to his brutality.

Bland’s YouTube posts show her as a strong, assertive Black woman who is keenly aware of racial disparities, and committed to social and economic justice. Former police officer Harry Houck, commenting on this case on CNN, described her as “arrogant” because she would not extinguish her cigarette. Houck did not know Bland, so how did he surmise that she was arrogant? Isn’t that how some Whites describe Black people when we fail to grovel in the face of their power?

What did Encinia see when arresting Bland? Did he, like Houck, see a woman who was not intimidated, a woman who, though not rude, was not “humble”? Did she scowl when she was stopped? Probably. Was she unfriendly or ungracious? Possibly. Was she deferential? Not at all. But there is no law that says that someone who gets a ticket is supposed to be grateful. Most folks who get a ticket are annoyed, and have a bit of an attitude. She did not bow and scrape, or say, “Yes massa,” so now she is dead, and Encinia is, at minimum, partly responsible for her death.