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How the Black Community Failed Sandra Bland

sandra-blandBy: James Clingman

Sandra Bland is dead.

While many are concentrating on “how” she died, we must also face the reality of “why” she died. All of the circumstances surrounding her death notwithstanding, Sandra is still dead. I cannot help but think that along the three-day period from her arrest to her final moments in that lonely and frightening jail cell, there were opportunities to rescue her from such a horrible experience and tragic end.

This is not a rehash of all the conversations, utterances, conjecture and theories put forth after Sandra died. Rather, this is a simple critique of what we all saw on video and heard from Sandra herself when she called someone to let them know her current status having received a $5,000 bond. To say the least, she was totally frustrated by the entire situation.

Why Sandra Bland died is also obviously connected to who played a role in her death, whether directly or indirectly. Where were the intervention points by which Sandra’s three days of horror could have been stopped? Was there any way, leading up to her demise, for her to have survived?

She should have never been arrested in the first place, but after she was, what could have been done? My initial inquiry would be directed toward the person who shot the cellphone video, the one to whom the cop said, “You need to leave.” The bystander replied, “Is this public property?” That person obviously had enough backbone to refuse to leave and even question the officer’s order; but did he make any attempt to see what happened to Sandra after she was taken away thanking him for recording the incident?

In such a small town, where I am sure the news of Sandra’s arrest got around pretty fast. I wonder if anyone at her new employer, Prairie View A&M University, knew about the incident on the day it took place. If someone did know, did they follow up to check on Sandra and make an effort to help her?

Surely, there are a couple of Black lawyers in Prairie View as well. I am not a lawyer, but I know there is something called “habeas corpus,” which directs a person, usually a prison warden or jailer, to produce the prisoner and justify the prisoner’s detention. If the prisoner argues successfully that the incarceration is in violation of a constitutional right, the court may order the prisoner’s release. Am I misinformed about that legality?

Finally, there was the $5,000 bond, which called for 10 percent to be paid — a measly $500 — for Sandra to be released. Does anyone believe that $500 was such an enormous amount of money that Black folks in Prairie View could not raise it to pay her bond? Even the full $5,000 could have been put up by a group of people until Sandra’s family was able to send it or bring it to the court. Now we have to live with the fact that a major reason this young lady died is the lack of $500! Surely her life was worth far more than that.

To have allowed her to stay in a cell for three days with no one checking on her from the outside, no one pursuing legal avenues to see and speak to her, no one willing to put up the miniscule bond for her release is embarrassing, irresponsible, and unconscionable.

We let Sandra down by failing to rescue her. Every photo I found of her contained a beautifully brilliant smile. The only ones in which she is not smiling were taken after she was arrested. We helped take her smile away.

Since mid-July, according to an article written by April V. Taylor on Kulture Kritic, five Black women have died in police custody. They should not be treated as mere conversational fodder for talk/news shows. We have a responsibility to be more proactive when these issues arise and not wait for our brothers and sisters to lose their lives before we act appropriately.

We may not like it and we may not agree with it, but Black folks are part of the “why” Sandra Bland met her demise. There are practical things that could and should have been done, not only by Black folks but by anyone interested in the fate of that young woman. We must admit that, learn from it and act before other tragedies occur.

Now that Sandra Bland is dead, many are wringing their hands and saying, yet again, how outrageous this is, how they are fed up, how this must stop, and how things must change. A lot of good that’s doing for Sandra Bland now. We are always late when it comes to dealing with these kinds of issues. In this case, we were three days late and one sister’s life short.

What people are saying

11 thoughts on “How the Black Community Failed Sandra Bland

  1. Yo Reek says:

    Great read. Sensation Station Network, where radio is not dumbed down!

  2. Maybe you failed her but the black community didn't fail her.

    You need to lay the blame exactly where it needs to be; at the feet of those who put her in the predicament in the first place.
    For one, you're making too many assumptions about what happened after her arrest. How was her story supposed to circulate prairie view when most heard about her story only after she had died. Even the person who recorded the video could do nothing beyond circulate the video. Did they know her name or where she was going to be taken to?
    It is heartbreaking that a measly $500 would have gotten her out of jail but if those she contacted don't have it how are they wrong?

    Don't get distracted and lay the blame exactly where it belongs…

  3. African American Women Matters She was charged with assaulting a police officer , hence the high bail.

  4. I don't recall reading your name on the visitors log….

  5. The bigger picture is as a community, we're failing ourselves. Part of that trillion dollars we spend outside our community every year could go to having a Black legal office in every major city, creating jobs where you don't have to go out of your home state to find one.

    Having a Black hospital or major clinic that we can go to when we need physical or mental help and don't have to worry about how we're going to be treated. Black financial institutions where we're judged by whether we can afford the loan and not based on the color of our skin.

    Black companies so we can have at least an option on who we want to work for, and not have to continue to worry about diversity in 2015!!!!!!

    Black Unity is the solution, is the plan.

  6. How the hell you know that family's finiancal situation to pass judgement on them??

  7. IF… If IF was a fifth we'd all be drunk. First she was profiled, stoped then harrased and bullied, probably because she was bigger then the punk ass cop, he used his badge and his position as a Officier of the Law to bully and then arrest her on a trumped up charge. 1 unarmed female, who you can say was killed for smoking ciggerettes. Remember Eric Garner who was killed for supposedly selling single ciggies. Walter Scott who was killed because the cop was to lazy to chase him. Stand Your Ground should be our moto. Especially if you're Black and the other person is a white cop. This lady was removed from camera view, Why? Was she moved from camera view, so she could be killed? Could've been. Ijs

  8. Heyward Johnson Which was found to be a lie. Now what?

  9. The black community failed Sandra Bland? Are you kidding me? All of these IFS, and WHAT IFS!!!! How dare you point your finger and place blame on the black community for this woman's death. How many times did YOU contact the jail to find out about her well being once the news broke of her arrest broke? I live in a small town as well and people are arrested in my surrounding area on the daily but guess what, unless the crime was murder and posted up on the evening news. $500 (measly) may not be a lot of money to those of us who have it but you don't know what anyone's financial status is maybe thats why Sandra had a roommate……because they both were trying to obtain financial stability. I read that a bail bondsman offered to help her but she refused. Had you researched before placing blame you would know that Ms. Bland had been arrested several times over the last few years for various things including DUI and still owed thousands in fines. Maybe her family assumed this arrest was going to have the same outcome as the rest or were tired of bailing her out…tough love. No one will ever know the real truth or know her exact circumstances, but to blame her death on the black community is absurd.

  10. …..unless its murder and posted on the evening news I won't know about it.

  11. Lisa Underwood, please put it in a letter and let her mother and sisters know how you think it's their fault they didn't pay her bail even though some A-hole cop managed to pay his… You can include your information so when next any black person can't make bail they can just contact you to take care of it smh!

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