That was how the Reverend James Miller remembered Sandra Bland, or ‘Sandy’.
On Monday, Sandra Bland was found dead in her jail cell under police custody. You ask the police what events lead to her death, and they will look at you confused and tell you their only error was finding her too late.
Police say a suicide, her family suspects otherwise.
According to Waller County Police Sheriff, Sasha Bland was charged with assaulting a police officer. If we are to take Erik Burse’s–the trooper who was there–word into account, then Bland was pulled over for a minor traffic violation. It was when she was outside of the car, according to Burse, that Bland kicked the Burse. That was the alleged action which prompted her arrest, and indirectly lead to the taking of her life.
Reports tell us a lot. They tell us that Michael Brown was the aggressor towards Darren Wilson and that his death was warranted. They say Eric Garner was his own worst enemy for selling cigarettes on the corner of a Staten Island intersection. Reports tell us that George Zimmerman had every right to be suspicious of Trayvon Martin for being a threat, and that Jordan Davis’s worse enemy was his choosing to not be controlled.
What reports leave out is the humanity of black youth. They leave out that Sandra Bland was college educated. She was returning to Texas for professional job prospects. She did not ‘sag’ her pants. She was respectable. She followed the rules we prescribe to our black youth on how to guarantee survival, yet her fate was already decided. The power over her life was never her own, but the State’s.
We know how this story ends, because we’ve had it tattooed in our memories too many times. One year ago this week, Eric Garner died at the hands of police. He broke a minor law, and yet he was forced to pay the ultimate price for it. With his fate in their hands, the State made a choice, they chose his life.
A year later, under the same circumstances, it would not be unreasonable to assume the State would make the same decision again.
There is a message from Sandra Bland all the way back to the good ‘ole days of Antebellum South: to be black in America means to follow the rules, but to give up control of everything at the same time–including ourselves.