Around this time last year I made an illegal turn. It was about 2 a.m. in the morning; bleary-eyed and not paying attention, I just wanted to get home and take my shoes off. I accidentally turned out from the left lane and went over two lanes to the right. Since I was driving slow, I tried to swerve my car back into my lane before the officer hiding in the gas station noticed me, but it was too late.
I was pulled over 5 seconds later, not even a block away from my house. I apologized to the officer and told them that I was coming home from work. I told the officer my occupation and how I had a long night. None of it mattered. The incident left me with a fine and a few points on my license, but I was able to sleep in my own bed that night.
Lucky me, I landed the cop desperate to meet a quota, instead of one who rather a proud sister laying cuffed and bloodied on the street.
Sandra Bland was supposed start a new position at her Alma mater soon, but she was pulled over, arrested, and died in jail.
The dash-cam video displayed a strong, knowledgeable, and alert woman, unafraid to stand up for herself. The officer yanked and yelled, but like a modern day freedom fighter, Bland refused to be moved or discouraged. The medical examiner has already ruled her death a suicide by hanging, but all those who have marched on the front lines, and even those who’ve cheered from the side lines, know that Bland died a hero.
As the investigation process on what really happened in that small cell gets underway, it is crucial that the work of the Black Lives Matter movement be elevated. While not reducing the progress made behind previous incidents including Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, and others; all hands must be on deck if we truly want equality and justice to be universal.
She went to an HBCU; I went to an HBCU. She was a member of a black greek lettered organization (Sigma Gamma Rho), and so am I (Delta Sigma Theta). Bland and all the other victims of police brutality deserve more. Over the last year I have changed jobs twice, flown out of the country three times, and moved into a new place — but had I suffered the same fate as Bland, none of what I accomplished would be possible. As the older sister of two black men, I’ve always been partial to their struggles, often overlooking my own. They’ve both successfully made it out that “danger zone” of adolescence and young adulthood, and I’ll admit; I got comfortable. With the unfortunate reminder that these events can happen to educated women, who are literally on their way to accept an offer for a new job, it’s an eye-opening event that hits close to home.
The last Facebook profile picture that Bland will ever upload was a meme that plainly reads, “Now legalize being black in America.”
So, when will we?