What happened to Sandra Bland? Why was this Black woman arrested by police, and why did she die in a Texas jail cell? There are far more questions than answers.
On July 9, the Naperville, Ill. woman drove to Texas to begin her new job at Prairie View A&M University, the historically Black institution and her alma mater. The next day, the 28-year-old was stopped by police near campus, allegedly for improperly signaling during a lane change. She was arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer and taken into custody by a Texas state trooper.
On July 13, Bland was found dead in a Waller County jail cell. The Waller County Sheriff’s Office said the 28-year-old woman died “from what appears to be self-inflicted asphyxiation,” as NBC News reported, calling it a “tragic incident.”
We do not know what happened in the jail cell, though Sandra Bland’s family and others in the Black community do not believe that she committed suicide. However, her traffic stop and arrest were caught on video by a bystander. As WLS-TV in Chicago reported, the video shows police on top of Brand, with several officers subduing her as she tells them, “You just slammed my head into the ground. Do you not even care about that? I can’t even hear!”
“He pulled her out of the car, forced her and tossed her to the ground, knee to the neck, and arrested her,” said Bland’s friend, Malcolm Jackson.
As the police arrest her, Bland is heard saying repeatedly, “You slammed me into the ground and everything.” An officer on the video tells the bystander to leave.
The Texas Rangers are investigating the jailhouse death. Meanwhile, Black Twitter is speaking out, just as Sandra Bland often took to social media to speak out against police brutality and its impact on Black lives. #SandraBland is trending on Twitter, with people also using the hashtags #WhatHappenedToSandraBland and #JusticeForSandy.
Below are some Twitter responses to Sandra Bland’s suspicious death.
— Khaled Bey (@KhaledBeydoun) July 16, 2015
— El Gran Popcornian (@Juancito86) July 16, 2015
RT: Being Black means that you can be one police encounter away from death and that is horrifying. Our bodies are not weapons. #SandraBland
— The Progressive Mind (@Libertea2012) July 16, 2015
#SandraBland had degrees. Belonged to a Black Greek Organization. Was employed. She was all the things you tell us to be. And she’s dead.
— Brittany Packnett (@MsPackyetti) July 16, 2015
— jamilah (@JamilahLemieux) July 16, 2015
For those who wonder why Black people are angry, it is because of the countless cases where the police stop us, and we wind up dead—in the street, in the patrol car or police wagon, or like Sandra Bland, in a jail cell. From the days of the slave patrols, this is the history of Black people and their encounters with the cops.
We still don’t fully know the details surrounding the death of Sandra Bland, but what is known is that white women are not sat upon by police officers, and they do not die in police custody.