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Even If Sandra Bland and Kimberlee Randall-King Committed Suicide, Racism Killed Them

635726443366152233-Bland-03The New York Times’ Charles Blow wrote eloquently about the alleged suicides of Sandra Bland and Kindra Darnell Chapman. Bland allegedly took her own life on July 13 following three days of detainment in a Waller County, Texas jail.

On the following day, Alabama prison authorities reported that Chapman “used a bed sheet to hang herself.”

Blow, like many, questioned if these deaths were self-inflicted or “something sinister.” Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis recently announced Bland’s death is now being investigated as a murder.

Until I spoke with attorney J. Justin Meehan, I too, had trouble comprehending that Black suicide is the sinister product of racism.

Meehan represents the family of Kimberlee Randall-King, a 21-year-old Black mother of two who was arrested in Pagedale, Mo., less than twenty minutes away from Ferguson, in September of 2014. Booking officers classified her as “hysterical” and intensely distraught about the possibility of losing her children and employment. Facing the prospect of being caged and stripped of motherhood, she correctly forecasted what would happen once she was jailed. “I’m gonna die if I go back there,” she said.

Surveillance video shows Randall-King alone using a shirt to self-asphyxiate. She died less than two hours from the time of her arrest.

During last week’s speech to the 106th NAACP National Convention, President Barack Obama reiterated that, “African Americans are more likely to be arrested” than other races.

In tabulating the expense of this confinement, the president remembered Black children, saying, “Around one in nine African American kids has a parent in prison.”

Apparently, the thought of her children being in that number was insufferable for Randall-King.

This is the context of Bland’s declaration that, “Being a Black person… is very, very hard.”

Attorney Meehan asserts that the unnecessary and premeditated indignities of racism are designed not only to abolish pride, but our very will to live.

Three years of confinement permanently damaged Kalief Browder. He committed suicide in June of this year, but suffered through years of mental illness and several earlier attempts to end his own life.

Jennifer Gonnerman reports, “In February, 2012, he ripped his bedsheet into strips, tied them together to create a noose, and tried to hang himself from the light fixture.”

More than a thousand days on Rikers Island – including two years of solitary confinement – permanently impaired Browder’s well-being.

As a civilian and months before her lethal encounter with Waller County enforcement officers, Bland had the courage to confess that she “was real stressed out,” “depressed,” and suffering from “post traumatic stress disorder.”

Third generation physician and psychiatrist Dr. Frances Cress Welsing submits that this is common. Her scientific conclusion is that, “Black people do not qualify for mental health under the system of racism.” We cannot experience sanity in a white supremacist environment that constantly devalues Black life, encourages and celebrates our demise.

This is precisely what motivated Karyn Washington to craft ForBrownGirls; a site “to celebrate the beauty of Black women whotumblr_inline_n3slq8Cqvh1rq1pev [because of racism] don’t always feel the love out here.”

Sadly, Washington took her own life in the summer of 2014. It isn’t always Dylann Roof or hooded Klansmen, but the daily debilitation of racism that perpetually assails Black mental health.

The Director of the Center for Mental Health Disparities at the University of Louisville, Monnica Williams, classifies this as “race based trauma.” Being hounded by enforcement officers or subjected to relentless footage of mauled and murdered Black people can have dire health consequences for people with melanin.

Attorney Meehan describes the taxation of racism as a “weight thrown over [Black people] designed specifically for hauling in people of color and disenfranchising them,” designed specifically to overwhelm Black mothers like Kimberlee Randall-King.

Echoing the sentiments of Dr. Welsing, Meehan articulates how incarceration and the removal of #BlackSelfRespect can induce self-destructive behaviors.

“There are people who have pride in this world, and when you strip them of everything that you told them would cloak them from fear and from being flushed down the toilet and they see it means nothing primarily because of the color of their skin, what’s the sense in going on? How can you live? How can you get ahead? How can you go on?”

Many behind bars do not go on. Suicide is the leading cause of death in jails. As the prison population is intentionally, excessively Black, the mental health of the incarcerated must be of monumental importance to Black people.

Hopefully, accurate conclusions are forthcoming in the cases of Bland, Chapman and Randall-King. The incendiary footage of Bland’s detainment warrants sustained, precise scrutiny. But even if it’s determined that these Black daughters ended their own lives, white supremacy is culpable. Their deaths indict a deliberately racist environment as intolerable.

Gus T. Renegade is the host of The C.O.W.S. Talk Radio – a platform designed to dissect and counter Racism. He has interviewed and researched authors, filmmakers and scholars from around the globe.

What people are saying

7 thoughts on “Even If Sandra Bland and Kimberlee Randall-King Committed Suicide, Racism Killed Them

  1. Adam Shorter says:

    Keep perspective here. I watched the press conference live as I live in the area. The DA did not say it is being investigated as a murder. He specifically said that it would be investigated in the way a murder usually is. He's playing with words to simply say that the case can't be closed quickly as a clear cut suicide would but because of the national spotlight and pressure he has no choice but to be thorough.

  2. Mark Donners says:

    American police are trained to murder innocents. they are part of a larger criminal gang called the "justice department"

  3. Soleil Aluyi says:

    Just to make it perfectly CLEAR, our people don't usually commit suicide as a norm, this simply is not our MO, so let's stop helping to promote that lie, people!

  4. Sd Humphrey says:

    BLACK people generally don't usually commit suicide, ITA. HOWEVER, all people have a breaking point and it doesn't matter the skin color! the circumstances for each individual person is different AND at different points in a person's life their ability or inability to cope may influence their decisions. if you're already in/at a low point, "one more thing" could possibly be the tipping point in making one act outside the norm in their life.

    personally, I truly believe there is less suicide overall in the BLACK community BECAUSE of the prevalent, inherent, and astronomical indignities as well as difficulties of "living BLACK" in america on a daily basis. I don't think anybody can OR should deny the strength and determination REQUIRED to simply exist and live as a BLACK person in everyday life. we are a deliberate and intentional people who have shown and continue to do so, that our method to the madness is to skillfully execute survival no matter the life/living circumstances! it is in our genes to survive as best we can. that's just one reason we're still here on the planet AND in america.

  5. Suicide, unfortunately, happens with humans, but you aren't human, so you couldn't possibly do anything like that.

  6. REPORT (14-51018) SUMMARY

    KIMBERLY RANDLE-KING
    9/19/14 Suicide in Pagedale Jail

    KRK
    21 yr old (d/o/b: 06/06/93)
    Mother of 2 (3 yr old and 4 yr old) 5’8”, 150 lbs
    Employed
    No criminal record (7 FTA & 9 Failure to Appear warrants)
    but multiple traffic warrants & FTA (1 Clay, 1 Bell Ngbrs, 1 Md Hgts, 2 U City, 4 STL CO
    got off work 2:30 p.m. – went to mom to get her 2 kids

    KRK Arrest

    KRK & Catherine Waters get into fight – 3:30 p.m.
    Both arrested – Ass 3rd
    P.O. Hall arrest/book KRK
    P.O. Valient arrest/book Waters
    Arrive Pagedale 4:13 p.m.

    Pagedale Jail
    1420 Ferguson
    Multiple Surveillance Cameras
    16 cameras
    3 exterior & 13 interior
    3 hold cells – 2N & 1 South(3)
    KRK placed in Cell #3
    6 holes in cell – 1 inch diameter
    6 above bunk
    6 below bunk
    Hole were to attach bunk mattresses to wall
    But none such ever used in cells

    Booking

    KRK cuffed to chair

    P.O. Hall (p. 20-21)

    Arrested KRK –
    she is excited, upset
    can’t go to jail because job and kids
    1st handcuffed in booking room
    Then un-cuffed because calmed down

    Booking documents (4:52 p.m.)
    KRK signed
    Denied medical problems
    Never asked if suicidal

    After explain bond & other warrant
    KRK became “hysterical”
    Claimed she would lose
    Job, house & babies
    • “I’m gonna die if I go back there” (holding cell)

    Hall

    Trained as Pagedale “Crisis Intervention Team” (Nov. 2013)
    He says he did not hear “suicidal statements” and
    did not see “suicidal behavior”
    Says he would have recognized suicidal behavior because C.I.T. training
    did not believe KRK statement “I’m gonna die if I go back there”
    to be suicidal in nature.

    Tape Shows

    4:56 p.m. P.O. Hall try to get KRK to enter
    “staging area” but KRK appears “hysterical”
    and falls to the floor crying

    4:57 p.m. Hall calls P.O. Valient to say KRK had become
    uncooperative and refused to enter holding cell

    5:00 p.m. Valient returns
    enters booking room with Hall
    Valient talks to KRK
    however KRK appears even more hysterical and uncooperative

    P.O. Valient (p. 17)

    Observed KRK seated on floor
    Screaming incoherently
    Continuously screamed
    “I can’t go to jail –
    I have kids and a job.”
    Valient repeatedly ask KRK to stand up and enter cell
    After numerous requests
    KRK ultimately complies
    Then secured without further incident
    NOTE:

    P.O. Valient says KRK ultimately complied

    but

    P.O. Hall says KRK refused to walk to cell
    and P.O. Hall and P.O. Valient (p. 21) used
    “soft escort position” to walk her to call.

    Camera (p. 34) 5:05 p.m. shows Hall & Valient
    Grasped KRK arms
    Placed her in “escort position” and
    Attempted to walk her to cell
    KRK appears uncooperative

    Tape Suicide p. 34)

    5:06 p.m. KRK in cell #3
    lower bunk and speaks with P.O. Valient
    5:07 p.m. Hall & Valient leave
    KRK immediately threw herself on floor,
    rolled onto her sides, flailed her arms and legs and
    appeared to cry and scream

    between 5:09 and 5:17
    KRK takes off her red t-shirt
    ties it to holes in top bunk
    turns to twist shirt tightens
    and hung herself.
    5:14 bond “involuntarily pulsate
    until all movements stop 5:17 p.m.

    All of this on tape monitor. No one look and notice till
    5:33 p.m. [1/2 hour later] by Valient and clerk

    Monitor – all recorded (p. 34-36)

    Police Clerk Lori First (p. 23)

    Her job to monitor cells along with other duties

    4:31 – she reported for duty, cleared desk, took phone calls
    monitor working
    4;48 – left dispatch room/office
    Floor unknown reason (both noon/food
    5:04 She return – turn on computer and ate at desk
    5:09-5:17 KRK hangs herself
    5:17 She on telephone
    5:27 She talk with civilian
    5:29 She talk with Hall
    5:33 Valient and First notice monitor
    5:34 Valient runs to cell and takes KRK off noose

    First says she had many duties
    No duties to check on prisoners
    But did say she
    heard female crying, but
    could not decipher what said
    she was aware KRK with P.O. Hall
    too busy with other duties
    did not hear any suicide threats

    3 other male inmates

    Heard KRK screaming and crying
    She did not want to go to jail or into the jail cell
    Crying inside cell – 5 minutes

    Lt. Stayton (p. 29)

    Says it was prime responsibility of police clerk (First)
    To maintain visual contact with the prisoners, via a
    Monitor at her desk in the dispatch room/office.
    Lt. left Pagedale at 5:22 pm

    Monitors
    Monitor on wall above her computer monitor
    show all 16 views

    FROM PAGEDALE MANUAL OBTAINED THRU FOI REQUEST:

    “MONITORING PRISONERS – PROTOCOL FOR PAGEDALE

    Monitor all prisoners at all time and keep an accurate log.
    If a prisoner requests something, notify the supervisor on duty.
    If a problem arises notify the supervisor on duty.
    Never leave your desk unattended especially when a prisoner is being held
    at our facility. (Need use the restroom call the supervisor on duty).”

    PRIOR PAGEDALE JAIL SUICIDE

    Kelvin Dobbs hung himself
    October 28, 2005, midnight

    Despite order KD allowed to keep
    All his clothes and used belt to hang himself
    Jianna Brown, Clerk on monitor
    b/c “ungodly amount of work that they do”

    Coleman vs City of Pagedale
    4:06CV01376 ERW
    Jury Verdict for Defendants
    City of Pagedale dismissed out
    Trial vs. P.O. Ross & Turner
    42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 and
    Wrongful death and last chance of recovery
    Judge E. Richard Webber

  7. until we start to fight back, we will continue to suffer and that goes for Black people worldwide.

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