Upon the news of Sandra Bland, I was grief stricken, pissed, numb, and now I am attempting to work through fear & anxiety.
There are no words to quantify the superficially deep connection I have with the complex emotions involved in driving while Black. Seriously, it has come to the extent that:
- I don’t drive late at night
- If I even have one tag light out, I find alternate transportation to get me to the auto parts store to pick up more.
- I break out into a sweat and shortened breath whenever a police car is behind me.
Why, you might ask? BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT CAN COME OF A SIMPLE TRAFFIC STOP.
And also, guess what? It really doesn’t matter if you are “fully” cooperating with the police or not (You really never know what qualifies as resisting). Even if you act sweet as saccharine, there is no safety net while Black. While I am fortunate to have never been arrested from a traffic stop, I do remember a traumatizing event of being pulled for one tag light being out, which completely changed my perception of driving while Black. It didn’t help that the vehicle I was driving was my former fiancee’s car, which was filled with items we were planning to sell at a local flea market the next day. It was about a quarter to 2am, and the way that this police officer pulled a hard U-turn had me thinking that they were on a heavy pursuit of someone further down the road I was on. I was driving within the speed limit, my windows were down, and I was playing my favorite CD on the way home from a lovely night at the 24 hour café with some close friends I rarely was able to see. It shocked me that it was actually me who he was pulling over. I complied with all the demands and answered all the questions asked of me. But, tell me why there were 3-4 police cars there for a tag light? Tell me why they were looking in the backseat like I was trying to hide anything? I had no weapon, I posed absolutely no threat. At that time, I was 5’2, about 120lbs, and driving in the vehicle alone. There were like 4 [White Male read] officers out there with flashlights in my face and car, and anytime I looked away from the officer who was questioning me of my whereabouts and whether or not I had been drinking (which I hadn’t) I was yelled at to keep my eyes on the officer that had been questioning me. After about 20 minutes, I was given a warning and watched all those police officers walking back to their cars, leaving me in a pool of sweat and trembling. For one tag light being out. In this situation, I didn’t know my rights, I didn’t know what things were okay for them to be asking me, and for them to request of me.
I share my story with you not only to add to the many examples of creepy traffic stops, but to raise the very serious point that we are ALL functioning in an inherently FLAWED system of power. One that has been built on the backs of those is was founded to kill/silence/degrade/punish/subjugate. This is not only about socioeconomic class and sex. This is about race as well. I do believe Race to be socially constructed, but that doesn’t mean that now we should try and ignore the fact that it is something that has been used for centuries to perpetuate White Supremacy, bigotry, imperialism, and colonialism, to point to only a few violent consequences.
With that, I just want to note that this post isn’t about me, it is about Sandra Bland. This is the only way that I feel that I could articulate any of the feelings and thoughts going around in my heart and mind about her story. I could have been Sandra Bland.
With all the speculation surrounding her passing, it is hard for me to come down either way about this. What I want Sandra to know is that her life mattered. Whatever she was going through, NO ONE has any place to judge her for anything that happened in the events of her arrest and leading up to her passing. All the media attention to her broken and ailing family, under the microscope, like a science project, being picked apart by the media kills me a little every time I see anything to do with it. I tried to avoid watching the videos of her arrest and all the articles surrounding, in my way of attempting to give her family and loved ones time to grieve, time to think, and time to collect their brokenness. I soon realized that wasn’t going to be able to happen while having any kind of social media. I want Sandra to know that there are SO many of us who connected with what we saw her doing in the arrest video, with the voicemail she left from the jail, and also with what she had been doing in her life prior to the day of her arrest.
I think a serious issue we ought to be considering here is about struggling while Black and woman, within this flawed power structure, all the while trying to progress your narrative AND our sociocultural script. There has to be some fallout when everyday you wake up, you feel as though your life really matters less than the status quo.
Something to complicate this would be to think of complicating factors such as:
- Mental Illness-Including but not in the least limited to depression and anxiety.
- Physical Ability
- Socioeconomic Class
- Just to toss a few variables into the mix.
A lot of people are suggesting that if Sandra had not died, no one would have even paid attention. To that I would respond, how do you know? She seemed to say things about getting an attorney while she was being arrested. She was active in the #BlackLivesMatter Movement. She very well might have sued and gotten just as much attention if she had not passed. It is not only about death. That is the kind of speculation that I suggest not be engaged in. More likely than not, it will end badly. We ought to raise Sandra as well as those other Black Women who have passed surrounding police situations up by starting and keeping the conversation going about the SYSTEM that is undergirding all of this violence and disparity. We must never cease to speak our collective truths to Power. Even in situations you don’t think you will even be heard. SPEAK. WRITE. SING. SHOUT.
Sandra, this is for you right from my heart & mind:
When I lay my head down tonight I’ll cry,
Not only for those passed but all of us still alive.
I meditate against my own impulse to flee,
In an attempt to find the peace within me.
In death there is transition,
in life brick walls and inhibitions.
Life is a palette for change and also monotony
if we can grow beyond the concessions and rise against the litany
of stereotypes, prejudices, and violent scripts,
perhaps one day we shall get the best of it.
One day to grow and be fruitful beyond the violent socialization of yore,
to some place and time never felt before.
It won’t be like beginning again,
Because that old tattered system of power
Will have been forced to rescind.
Rest In Peace, Sandra.
Until Next Time,