Sandra Bland and the road to the non-indictment
After five months of asking questions about the circumstances surrounding the death of Sandra Bland, a jury decided it will not help provide answers.
According to The Washington Post, a Texas grand jury decided on Monday that they would not be indicting anyone connected with her death.
Back in July, the 28-year-old woman from Chicago had recently moved to Waller County, TX to pursue her dream job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University. However, on July 13, what should have been a routine traffic stop turned into foul play. After giving Bland a citation, State Trooper Brian T. Encinia asked Bland to put our her cigarette. After refusing—which is within her legal right because she was in her car—Encinia ordered her to get out her vehicle, threatening he by saying “I’ll light you up.”
The legality of the arrest itself drew attention in itself, which only led to a cascade of suspicious circumstances regarding how Bland was found dead, hanging in her jail cell, three days after she was taken into custody, or an apparent suicide.
“Do the research while this [investigation] is going on, so you know your rights, and it’s not your daughter, your son, your kid,” Geneva Read-Veal, Bland’s mother, told NBC News in July. “That’s what I want. The anger can be channeled into something so much greater than the incident that happened to Sandy.”
Many people took Read-Veal’s request to heart. Immediately following the release of the dash camera footage, Selma director Ava DuVernay noted that the footage looked like it had been edited.
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) July 22, 2015
Social media users have also been using hashtags to bring awareness and spark conversations around her death. People tweeted #SayHerName in order to make sure people paid attention to how black women uniquely experience police violence as police brutality makes its way to the forefront of the national conversation through the Black Lives Matter movement. Additionally, because many people questioned police reports that Bland had committed suicide, folks took to twitter using the hashtag #IfIDieInPoliceCustody, sharing heartbreaking last wills-and-testaments to control the narratives of their deaths despite police attempts to say otherwise.
However, the cards felt stacked against justice early on. After the announcement of the grand jury composition in August, Color of Change took to twitter to show one glaring problem: the jury was all white.
— UltraViolet (@UltraViolet) August 24, 2015
The fact that police officers are rarely indicted for misconduct while on duty was only compounded by the fact that grand jurors tend to be sympathetic to officers and white juries tend to extend harsher punishments for cases that involve African Americans. While Bland was not on trial, the lack of a willingness to find any evidence to indict suggests she was not seen as a victim, and what is more cruel than a justice system that refuses to extend to you the benefit of the doubt that your life is worth something, even after your death?
This does not mean the end for Bland. It only means that the pursuit of justice will require a bit more ingenuity, and as we plan, we will continue to say her name.
Photo credit: Creative Commons