Dr. E. Faye Williams, Esq., President of the National Congress of Black Women (Courtesy Photo)
TriceEdney – I won’t dispute the assertion by Democratic presidential candidate, Martin O’Malley, that all lives matter. I will, however, challenge his understanding and the sensitivity of any other observer who won’t acknowledge the execution of Black people occurring all too frequently. The questions left by the death of Sandra Bland are too unsettling to fully express, and living under the shadow of these executions, I join the declaration that Black Lives Matter.
As a Black woman, I’m angered by the feeble assertion by the Waller County Sheriff’s Department that her death was self-inflicted. I’m outraged at the unprofessional and inhumane treatment initially inflicted upon Sandra by this overly-aggressive policing and the ensuing treatment she was forced to endure until her death. Sandra’s treatment provides indisputable evidence that the lives of Blacks – both men and women – are under threat by rogue cops in every corner of this nation.
I’m a native of the south, and I have witnessed the disparate treatment of Black people by southern police. I can only imagine that the initial charge of “improper lane change” resulted, in part, from an Illinois license plate and the complexion/gender of the driver. A lack of subservience in response wasn’t “helpful” either. I imagine some who wear the uniform lack the understanding that Blacks folks, especially the young, are no longer willing to passively take unjustified abuse from anyone. They can no longer expect compliance with any wish or whim of a detaining officer. The officer’s demand that Ms. Bland put out her cigarette had nothing to do with the issuance of a traffic citation. His demand that she exit her vehicle had everything to do with the fact that she asserted her rights.
After ordering her from her car, forcefully extracting her and threatening to Tase her (“I’ll light you up!”), I find it questionable that she would be directed out of the range of the dash-cam. From that point, we have only the audio of the encounter and an incomplete unofficial video taken by a bystander. Officers who had taken Ms. Bland to the ground and were videoed with their knees in her back, ordered the bystander to leave the area and stop photographing them. The bystander argued that he was on public property, and watched as Bland was picked up from the ground and taken to the police vehicle. Video of the arrest shows two officers on top of Bland as she yelled in disagreement with their apprehension methods. Anyone viewing the dash-cam and bystander video with open eyes can see that the party (ies) escalating the incident wore the uniform of the law.
In management circles, it is said that operational imperatives are determined at the top and filter their way through the organization by way of supervision and leadership. Considering the history of Sheriff R. Glenn Smith, the treatment of Sandra Bland is not surprising. Sheriff Smith was previously fired from his position as police chief of Hempstead, TX, for allegedly making racist remarks and bad police work. After his firing, he ran for and won the position of Waller County Sheriff. His questionable history followed him as the Waller County Jail was (previously) cited by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards for not checking on inmates on an hourly basis, as required by law. Combined with what appeared to be a disingenuous explanation of the death of Sandra Bland, Smith raised more questions than he answered.
In one of her last posted Facebook videos, Sandra Bland stated, “It is not good between Black and white people, but I want us to try and get past that.” Before we can get past her death, a significant number of questions MUST be answered truthfully and justice MUST be served.