Another day, another Black person dead following an encounter with police. Another hashtag, another family desperately asking, "WHY?"
Twenty eight-year-old Sandra Bland was a 2008 graduate of the Prairie View A&M University in Texas. Last week, she returned to her alma mater to interview for a job in student outreach and, according to
Heavy, she was scheduled to start on July 15.
But on Friday, she was stopped by Waller Country police for a minor traffic violation. She was arrested and booked for "assault on a public officer." The video of her arrest, however, seems to tell a different story. You can hear Bland asking officers why she's being handled so roughly. What isn't seen here, however, is an assault on any officer.
The Chicago Tribune, one of the first outlets to report on this case (she had connections to the Naperville area), published a curious account of the final hours of the woman's life :
"Online county jail records show that Bland was arrested Friday and released Monday on $5,000 bond.
Bland was found Monday morning by a female jailer who had gone to Bland's cell to see if she wanted some recreation time, [Waller County Sheriff Glenn] Smith said."
If Bland was to have been released on Monday, why was she being offered "recreation time?"
A spokeswoman for the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences in Houston told the
Tribune that per an autopsy on Tuesday, Bland's death "has been classified as a suicide, with the cause of death (listed as) hanging" and Waller Country police have suggested Bland simply committed suicide. After getting a new job. And getting arrested for a minor traffic violation. And being prepared to bond out and go home.
Friends, family and Bland's Sigma Gamma Rho sorority sisters have started a social media campaign to raise awareness about the case. Bland's name began
trending on Twitter
last night, as users hope to force mainstream news outlets to begin coverage.
While we can't rule out the possibility that Bland actually
did commit suicide, those close to her have stated that there was no indication that she was feeling anything but good at this point in her life. Mental illness and depression are complicated beasts, but so is the American system of policing. When it comes to the death of a Black person in police custody or during an encounter with officers, what reason do we have to believe "official" accounts of what happened, when videos and witnesses have made liars of officers over, and over, and over again? When people of other races are routinely stopped, questioned, arrested (or NOT stopped, NOT questioned, NOT arrested) and somehow manage to live to see another day?
We need to know what happened to Sandra Bland but what clarity can we expect to get from the same people who arrested and jailed her? Police departments investigate themselves and return with an emphatic "nothing to see here, folks, the system is working!"
Sandra Bland deserves the outcry that is typically reserved for Black men who die in police custody, and the media attention given to "pretty" blondes. Say her name, say her name, SAY HER NAME.
The Waller County Sheriffs' office can be reached at 979-826-8282