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Sandra Bland Died Because She Wasn’t White

Photo by Fibonacci Blue via Flickr.com

Photo by Fibonacci Blue via Flickr.com

Sandra Bland should not have died. Bottom line, she should never have been arrested.

Sandra was, first and foremost, a human being. She was also an individual. Everything else is just over-generalized labels. Sandra Bland was arrested for refusing to put out her cigarette when asked by a police officer, who had pulled her over for failure to use her turn signal when changing lanes. Three days later, she was found dead, hanging from a plastic bag that had been turned into a noose.

Was prejudice the reason for Sandra Bland’s arrest and spending three days in jail? 

Senator Bernie Sanders issued the following statement after a grand jury in Texas decided no felony had been committed by the sheriff’s office or jailers in Sandra’s death

“Sandra Bland should not have died while in police custody. There’s no doubt in my mind that she, like too many African-Americans who die in police custody, would be alive today if she were a white woman. My thoughts are with her family and her loved ones tonight. We need to reform a very broken criminal justice system.”

How could failure to signal a lane change turn into 3 days in jail and Sandra Bland’s death?

It starts with a Texas state trooper who is tailing a driver, and when she tries to get out of his way, he pulls her over for failure to use a turn signal. The general impression is that Sandra was pulled over for driving while black. The Texas trooper expresses ego and anger management problems during the arrest, and clearly should not have been in a position of authority. The Texas trooper’s behavior is completely unprofessional and overly aggressive. There is a clear abuse of authority that is all too common among America’s police officers, especially when dealing with blacks.

The Texas trooper threatened Ms. Bland with a taser, saying,

“I will light you up!”

However, Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia stated Bland was out of control, calling her combative and uncooperative. “Bland began swinging her elbows at me and then kicked my right leg in the shin,” Encinia said in the arrest warrant. “Force was used to subdue Bland to the ground to which Bland continued to fight back.” Encinia wrote Sandra Bland was placed under arrest “for Assault on a Public Servant,” though initially, no charges could be found supporting the arrest.

The videos do not support the officer’s claims. Would the officer have behaved this way with a white woman? Experience says it seems very unlikely. Statistics, showing blacks are much more likely than whites to be arrested, support this position.

Bernie is right. Sandra Bland should not have died while in police custody. We need to reform a very broken criminal justice system. Encinia’s excuses do not justify his acting like a bully, arresting Sandra, and putting her in jail for 3 days. 

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