Everything That Happened To Sandra Bland Must Never Be Forgotten
It's been four years since the death of Sandra Bland, and we're still left wondering what really happened.
It's been four years since Sandra Bland died while in police custody in Waller County, Texas. Bland, who was only 28-years-old, was found hanged in a jail cell, after being pulled over and aggressively arrested as the result of a traffic violation just three days before. Although her death was ruled a suicide, supporters and activists have always had their doubts regarding the circumstances of her sudden passing.
While prior to this incident media coverage had primarily centered around unarmed Black men as the victims of confrontations with police, Bland’s unfortunate death underscored the notion that Black women can also be the victims of police brutality. Her death occurred at a time when police shootings of unarmed civilians killings and resistance against their abuse of power were at their peak and became the basis of the #SayHerName movement. Now new footage reportedly taken via Bland’s cellphone has been released to the public, which depicts an aggressive police officer pointing his taser gun at Bland while demanding that she “get out of the car.”
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Hearing Bland’s voice and knowing what would ultimately happen to her triggered the same feelings of fear and anger that I felt four years ago, after I first found out about her death. It still haunts me: Her mugshot picture, the dashboard video from the police and the fact that she was doing cop watch while speaking truth to power makes me think about my own life. As someone who has been active in the Black Lives Matter movement, spoken out against police injustice and dealt with police confrontation at protests and while cop watching, I know how terrifying encounters with police can be. I thought about how easily that could have been me. It frightens me; it scares me — as it well should.
"Despite all of the work I’ve done over the past four years to piece myself back together after her untimely death, I became unraveled as I was reminded of what I’ve always known: My sister died because a police officer saw her as a threatening Black woman rather than human," Sharon Cooper, Sandra Bland's sister, wrote an op-ed for USA Today.
A news station in Austin, TX, has reportedly had the footage from Bland’s phone since 2017, so why is it only being released to the public now? Perhaps this is just a continuation of the coverup that has been happening since the state troopers’ office initial reluctance to release the dashboard footage back in 2015, which depicted the hostile officer’s overreaction to Bland’s supposed “attitude.” What else are they hiding?
We may never know the details of what really happened to Bland in that jailhouse, but we know damn well it wasn’t right. Everything that happened to Sandra Bland must never be forgotten. We must continue demanding justice for her and all other Black women who have died while in custody. We must also — and forever — continue to say their name.