Since her mysterious death inside a jail cell on July 13th, 3 days following her arrest after being pulled over for failing to signal before changing lanes, activists have set the internet ablaze demanding to know #WhatHappenedToSandraBland.
But “what happened to Sandra Bland?” isn’t an honest question. We already know that an unlawful arrest caught on tampered video and garbage bags strong enough to hold the weight of a grown woman in the air by her throat with the weight of the world on her shoulders, too, and routine inmate checks that went undone don’t really add up to the tale of a woman who deserved to die that was woven for us. I don’t mean it’s rhetorical, though; it still demands a response.
Sandra Bland was killed by White Supremacy. We know this, but her death requires that we scream this truth from rooftops and never stop. Her body was choked or her mind was choked to death by white oppression and anti-Blackness – not just in that moment, but choked for the 28 years she spent on this earth alive. Before she was snuffed out for good.
Sandra Bland was killed by White Supremacy. She told us how it was killing her. She told us how it was draining her spirit. It just so happens that her body was taken away from her, too, but she was dying anyway.
Sandra Bland was killed by White Supremacy. I’m sure she resisted. We saw the flame in her. We saw her battling White Supremacy in Facebook videos and posts. When that officer asked her if she minded putting out her cigarette – her flame – she told him she did. She told him she did not have to put it out while she was in her car. She should not have to dim her fire while she was in her world. But White Supremacy insists that she must.
Sandra Bland was killed by White Supremacy. Even if it was her ghost that caused the inconsistencies in the dash-cam video after hanging herself by a garbage bag made of the strongest of plastics – even if cops don’t ever lie when it comes to Black people dying in their custody – even if she dealt with a depression that truly was too much to bear – her suicide would be the work of a system that insisted on her death, whether she died and still walked the earth afterwards or not.
“What happened to Sandra Bland?” is that she refused to be complicit in an oppressive system and the system fought back.
“What happened to Sandra Bland?” is that she couldn’t breathe since Eric Garner couldn’t breathe since Emmett Till couldn’t breathe.
“What happened to Sandra Bland?” is that White Supremacy murdered her.
It’s hell bent on murdering all of us, all the time, if we, too, refuse to stay in our place. If we become too uppity and assert our right to light a cigarette in our car – to sell one on the street and live to tell the tale.
Or if we don’t. If we wear our pants up high and our ties ironed. If we preach non-violence and dream of unity. If we ignore it.
White Supremacy is killing us all, no matter what we do. We have to know and name what happened to Sandra Bland and commit to making sure it doesn’t keep happening. We have to #SayHerName, but we have to say its name, too, and tell what it does.
It murders. Ruthlessly. Constantly. It killed her. It’s killing us. It’s not enough to know. It’s not enough to defy. Now we have to fight.