my thoughts on sandra.

ArtWork by Kalkidan Assefa and Allan Andre (Sandy Speaks)

The ‘land of the free’ and the ‘home of the brave’….also known as the United States of America.

But, recently, I cannot help but think that such phrases that make up the national anthem, do not describe the America we are witnessing unravel before our eyes.

‘You’re going to break my wrist!’

Last week, I opened my Facebook timeline before starting work to find several posts with titles such as ‘Sandra Bland was dead in her mugshot’ with a picture showing a young black woman, with distress etched all over her face. Her eyes glazed over – a look of lost hope? Or was I looking at the limp, lifeless body of Sandra Bland on her cell floor?

I couldn’t go to work without thinking about it – who was she? How did it happen? How come it wasn’t breaking news in the UK? And when I finished my shift at work, I sat on the bus and watched the clip that was released showing the dashcam of the police car on her arrest.

Now, there has been several reports that the dashcam footage has been edited and tampered with – so the truth is still UNCLEAR. However, her arrest angered me, she was tail-gated by a police car and when she attempted to pull over and forgot to signal, the police officer, Brian Encinia, says that she failed to signal, sparking the annoyance of Bland and the ego of officer Encinia. He asked her to stub out her cigarette, irritating her further and then made several demands that did not relate to her road traffic offence. Did he feel threatened by Bland’s knowledge of her rights?

‘I will light you up!’

Before her death, I was unaware that Sarah Bland was a black activist and was deeply passionate and concerned about black lives in America, and in these disturbing and unfortunate circumstances, I had to learn about her through her death. Not only was her arrest uncalled for, the handling of her during in the arrest is shocking – she clearly stated she suffered from epilepsy and her head being slammed to the ground could trigger an epileptic fit, but all of this was disregarded. Why? Was it because she forgot to signal whilst switching lanes? Was it because she was just an angry black woman? Or was it because she was not complying to the demands of the officer which were totally uncalled for?

And it makes you think, what type of conditions was she kept in that caused her to ‘allegedly’ commit suicide?

Now, I have no idea what it is like to live in America, and what the police officers are like – but being black in America at the moment seems to be a real problem. Whilst I still believe that race plays a huge role in the injustice of many ethnic minorities in the legal system – this is not just a war about race, but a war about power.

I have always had dreams about moving Stateside after university, the ‘American Dream’ was something that several other young Londoner’s and I adorned. But, over the past year, my thoughts have changed – police brutality, injustice, racial tensions and divisions is something I didn’t imagine to be part of my ‘American Dream’.

Ethnic minorities and the criminal justice system in contemporary Britain have displayed a volatile relationship for many years – especially as to whether power the judiciary system exerts is fair and promotes equality amongst all races. Several figures have shown that a black person is six times more likely to be stopped and search compared to a white person and Asian and mixed ethnic groups were two times more likely to be stopped. With such controversial statistics published by the government showing that ethnic minorities are more likely to be stopped and search by the police, suggests that racial profiling and possibly racial stereotypes is a reason for this.

Whilst this is not comparable to the statistics of the U.S. it is important to recognise that ethnic minorities are often portrayed as the problem and not part of the solution. A police officer’s duty is to ‘serve and protect’, and yes, there are police officers that do respect and practice these values, but we cannot hide from the reality. Justice needs to be served and questions need to be answered.

Rest in Power Sandra.

“Show me in American history where all lives mattered. Show me where there has been liberty and justice for all.” – Sarah Bland

Sandra Bland, Icarus Randolph, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott , Tony Robinson, Anthony Hill, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Victor White III, Dante Parker, Ezell Ford, Michael Brown. Tyree Woodson, John Crawford III, Eric Garner, Yvette Smith, Donitre Hamilton,Jordan Baker, Ryan Stokes, Barrington Williams, Carlos Alcis, Deion Fludd, Jonathan Ferrell, Kimani Gray, Kyam Livingstone, Larry Eugene Jackson, Jr., Miriam Carey…and the list goes on.

  Katie Wolh - ZNH Art

Here are some useful links:

Guardian – US Counted Police Killings

Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System in the UK

Kalkidan Assefa’s post on Sandra Bland’s Mural

 

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