Black Lives Matter is not just a black issue. It is a human issue. The Sandra Bland incident has an impact on society as a whole.
Sandra Bland, a black woman driving away from her new place of employment, is being tailed by a cop. She pulls over to let him pass. One slip up. She forgot to use her turn signal. The cop pulls her over, issues her a warning, and asks her to put out a cigarette. It’s her car. She keeps smoking. Minutes later she is on the ground, head pounded into the pavement. She is arrested. Three days later, she is found dead in her jail cell.
Today, footage of the incident was released. As if the scandal weren’t horrible enough, the dashboard video was edited and doctored, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Black communities and activists are outraged, and people of other races are outraged. Others, though, take offense at the Black Lives Matter movement, and accuse its supporters of being anti-police.
Here is why the Sandra Bland incident, and others like it, should matter to everyone:
Sandra Bland’s demise is both terrifying and heartbreaking.
A woman got pulled over for a minor traffic violation, ended up slammed into the ground, and was found dead three days later. Politics and social activism aside, a beautiful woman, a daughter, a friend, and a sister is gone. The incident that set off the concatenation of events that lead to her death was the failure to use a turn signal. That is nothing short of tragic.
The Sandra Bland incident undermines the public’s trust in law enforcement.
Most police officers protect the community and carry out their duties respectfully. Rogue officers like the one who stopped Sandra Bland and rogue police departments who doctor dash-cam video footage create an atmosphere of suspicion and fear. The spate of questionable interactions (to put it very mildly) involving African Americans has put the black community on edge.
How should white people feel this level of injustice and corruption? Safe, because there aren’t as many white victims of police brutality in the news? Sense of safety and trust in law enforcement should not be driven by one’s race.
It is a threat to public safety when law-abiding police officers, like law-abiding citizens, are met with resistance and suspicion due to the actions of a few.
The double-standard in the criminal justice system is unfair to everyone, not just African-Americans. Black men are six times as likely as white men to be incarcerated. Black women are three times as likely as white women to end up in jail. Black drivers are also more likely than white drivers to be pulled over by police in a traffic stop.
Guess what? People of other races commit crimes too. Some of the worst, most devastating crimes are committed by people who appear to be model citizens. So, while police are busy pulling over people they consider “suspicious” (perhaps due to their race or social class in some cases), white child rapists, perpetrators of incest, and other criminals are flying under the radar.
My own perpetrator is white. He was a swim coach and presented himself as a devout Christian who was devoted to his community. I was with him several times when he was pulled over by police. What if they had treated him like Sandra Bland? A real criminal would have been incarcerated sooner and I would have been spared years of assault and abuse.
Racial disproportionality in the criminal justice system should be an outrage to everyone, not just the black community. Endorsing or justifying inequity and unfairness perpetuates the problem. It is tragic, and on a practical level, it is a threat to public safety.
My perpetrator was white. Perhaps if he had been African American he would have been met with more skepticism. Perhaps someone would have asked him what he was doing with a visible distressed child he made sit next to him on the bench seat of his station wagon in the 80’s while he molested her as he drove.
Instead, we have heart-breaking evidence of a woman imprisoned, and then found dead, after a failure to use a turn signal and put out a cigarette.
Something is wrong with that picture.
Black Lives Matter is not just a black movement. It is a human movement.