Wednesday, July 22, 2015


I have not been able to watch the "arrest video" of Sandra Bland.

I have seen it roll, without sound, or with subtitles, or hearing only a snippet, several times today, but can't bring myself to watch the whole thing because I'm afraid the ugly will make me physically sick.

Of course, I have that privilege, of not seeing it. The subject of the video does not.

I sense that the cop in question will appear to me as one of the evil racist characters in a movie about the civil rights era, only not as elegantly written, and that's why I don't want to watch it. Those characters make me feel sick, too.

In those movies, there is a lot of oppression and killing, and, at the end they show the victims displaying some grand dignity as they rise above it all.

I suspect that part of the reason you see the "dignity" piece at the end is because we want to tell ourselves, "See, they're OK! They're OK. They made it."

Like it wasn't that bad.

We soften the picture so much that it becomes completely detached from reality. We pretend the suffering was short term and that everybody is happy now.

But that movie hasn't ended yet--it's on some infinite loop at the part that made white people uncomfortable. weary, as I think a lot of people are. I am weary even though I, as a typical white American, can turn off the TV or not read the hash tag, and ultimately never experience anything remotely as awful at the experience thrust upon Sandra Bland. As someone smarter than me said recently, if you're tired of hearing about it, think how tired you would be of living it. That, stupidly, adds another layer of exhaustion to the whole thing, because I'm not capable of living it, so...I dunno.

As a person who makes a study and living from image, public relations and similar science, I must say...the bad guys in the USA have been bringing their A Game to this "paint black people as lesser humans" for...well, forever, essentially, or at least ever since they first thought about bringing one to this country. They don't even need the secret meetings anymore-- everybody knows exactly what to say to maintain the image:

"He went for my gun."
"She was being combative."
"He/She had a shady past."
"He shouldn't have talked back to the cop."

And we nod our agreement, like, "yes, yes...they talked back...he had no other option but to wrestle them to the ground and perhaps put a bullet in them." We don't even notice how utterly absurd that is that we have drawn a straight line between You Committed A Misdemeanor (or no crime at all, just perceived non-compliance) and You Must Die.

We keep buying this shit. It's killing us like a cancer, but the sales pitch is so perfect at this point that even some black people believe it.

I guess my question is, who has to be killed before we wake up to the notion that it's wrong?

Seriously, I'm asking as a sociology question.

Do you remember how when HIV was new-ish, everyone said, "Sure it's bad but that's one of those things that other people get, not me"? And then Magic Johnson happened and Snap! we all woke up to the idea that it was bad, AND we could get it too?

That's what I'm talking about.

I have seen numerous intelligent, well  respected and well paid people who happen to be black say out loud on national media, "Hey, you know what? It can be different for black people sometimes. We have to tell our kids to behave a certain way to hopefully keep them safe, and we have to be really, really on top of our game to make it because of this perception of 'less than' that permeates our community."

So it's not like nobody famous is saying it's an issue.

Where is the Magic Johnson moment? When does the turnaround happen?

Every time there is some highly publicised and sketchy death of a black person in this country, there is an immediate "What were they doing to deserve it?" followed by a round of "Here's the victim's criminal record". And very handily, the dye is cast and a killing is "justified."

At what point is this society finally going to kill a game changer? Someone not so easily dismissed as "justified?" Are we there yet?

Let me be clear. I don't want any other people to die in this way--to be in the wrong place at the wrong time on the wrong person's bad day. I don't want that. Each time breaks my heart.

I want it to be now. I want that person to be Sandra Bland.

I already see people online saying, "she shouldn't have been so arrogant or talked back to that cop." To them I can only ask, when was the last time YOU spent 3 days in JAIL for failing to use your turn signal? When was the last time you were pulled over for ANY reason, and asked to exit your vehicle? Because the thing is, it doesn't happen to everybody, so I get that you can't relate. It only happens to some. If you're white, you can sit there and tell that cop you know your rights, and nothing will happen to you. If you're not white, you are somehow, bizarrely, charged with "resisting arrest," which is...what the fuck is that? You can't be resisting arrest if you're not being arrested for *something* in the first place and after 14 times of asking, "Why am I being arrested?" that cop never once answered Sandra.

Even if it turns out that she did in fact kill herself in that cell, the reason she was in that cell in the first place is all right there on that sickening tape. It's wrong in every possible way.

So I am asking...hoping...that it is Sandra who turns out to be the game changer. Please let it be her. Let us put ourselves in her shoes as best we can in our privileged existence and say, "Yes, if that had happened to me, I would identify that arrest as unjustified and wrong."

Keep saying her name.

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