#SayHerName: Sandra Bland – Another Innocent Life Lost to State Terror and Racism
It’s hard to watch the video showing Sandra Bland being stopped for failing to signal before a lane change and being pulled out of her car and arrested for simply talking back to the officer and insisting on her rights as a citizen and not be enraged. I get so enraged every time I see it that I have to turn around as if to protect my sanity. This is why they call it “maddening”. And I’m not even talking about her murder while in police custody. In fact, even if she hadn’t been murdered, her treatment by the officer alone is just as maddening and deserves as much if not more attention.
Not only was the officer’s sense of power and entitlement as a white male being challenged and questioned, it was being challenged by a black woman no less who, in his mind, should be the last creature on Earth to challenge or question his God and state given power. But, the abuse of power and oppression that took place against Sandra Bland was not just the coming together of both racism and male chauvinism at their worst. It was also a reflection and byproduct of an ongoing state terror and oppression that has never stopped against African Americans since the end of slavery.
This is not to say that the police don’t get irritated and resort to violence when white men challenge their sense of power and authority. In fact, I believe their training encourages them to exert such power and authority to intimidate people of all colors, backgrounds and genders because the first step in challenging the power and privilege of the ruling class is the act of challenging the power and authority of their police, who are tasked with defending their power and privilege. Any challenge to the system will have to start and go through challenging their protectorate police, first. The officer, who pulled Sandra Bland out of her car and arrested and jailed her, which then resulted in her mysterious death, for no other reason than defending her rights and her dignity as a human being, has been trained to force that power and authority on behalf the state as a reminder to people not to question their authority which begins with the police as their first line of defense. And, as poverty, chronic unemployment and income and wealth gap increases, so does the fear of the bottom classes at the top. Naturally, those who have the least to lose and most to win, to paraphrase Karl Marx, are feared the most. The capitalist system thus finds a natural ally in institutional racism and encourages it.
But, although it’s used, encouraged and made a part of the economic system of capitalism, institutional racism and racial injustice is obviously not the same as economic injustice and oppression. In fact, the claim that police encounters by and mass incarceration of blacks is due to economic neglect and high unemployment and poverty among them is itself borderline racism, which only white liberals like Bernie Sanders, who are oblivious towards racism and state terror as a pressing and urgent issue for the poor and especially blacks, can suggest it. That’s why Democrats like Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sanders’ reaction to #BlackLivesMatter is “All lives matter”, which is dismissive of the movement altogether. The merging of institutional racism and state terror thus makes repression against blacks qualitatively different from that against whites.
What happened to Sandra Bland as an African American woman was nothing new or unusual. Historically, African American women have borne the brunt of white supremacy in its cruelest, combined with traditional male chauvinism and brutal state terror, all of which descended on Sandra Bland. Sandra Bland was not only aware of her rights herself, she was an activist within the #BlackLivesMatter movement and was teaching and encouraging others in her community to stand up to the onslaught of repression, institutional racism, abuse and murder. Her murder in the hands of the state must therefore be viewed as the reaction of the state to the awakening of the black community who is starting to speak up and resist the onslaught and must therefore be viewed as a political assassination. Her abuse and psychological torture followed by her murder must therefore not go without a massive response by the people in the millions. Now, it’s our turn. Our response must be loud and clear and shake the foundations of this terrorist state.