During her interaction with a Texas Trooper, Sandra Bland asserted dignity like her White counterparts have done.
Last night, roughly twelve hours before I watched Mr. Harry Houck, a former NYPD detective and CNN contributor, call Ms. Sandra Bland arrogant for not submitting to the ludicrous demands of her arresting officer, I sat at a bar and attempted to explain to a young White woman why Ms. Bland’s arrest – and more largely, the issue of police misconduct directed towards people of color – was a gross injustice. In response to my candor, she, like Mr. Houck, misinterpreted my emotion, with her labeling me angry instead of passionate.
I, last night, wasn’t any angrier than Ms. Bland, last Friday, was arrogant. In fact, I would argue that I was as aggressive as Ms. Bland was assertive.
To prove my point to the lady who upon much reflection will realize she’s ignorant, I gave an example of what I sound like when I, as she accused me of, “raise my voice.”
She quickly saw the difference and conceded her argument, which was flawed, since she, for starters, unsure of herself, referred to Ms. Bland’s case as “the one with the traffic stop,” and followed that up with jargon about black people not caring about violence unless it’s done by a police officer.
At the bar, her mis-perception of my emotion(s) was of no consequence, as I’m a familiar face there and she’s a non-factor. But, as I mentioned to her, the mis-perception of Black people’s emotions and sometimes their movements by unstable, fearful police officers is what leads to us disproportionately filling jails or graveyards.
And, to be honest, these mis-perceptions of emotions aren’t just a case of cultural unawareness as some savvy politicos would portray it. These mis-perceptions are, in fact, byproducts of institutional racism and white supremacy.
For example, a series of videos of a middle-aged white man recording his traffic stops and asserting his rights went viral and was crowned as a model for others to follow.
Yet, when Ms. Bland, a 28 year-old activist, does a similar action – and she, I would argue, was much more cooperative – it’s labeled as arrogant and condemned with speeches like “the side of the road is not the place to assert your rights” or “don’t try and prove you’re smart, just make it home.”
Like I said to a business associate yesterday following my encounter at the bar, to what ends do us as Black people in America enable this system that says for us a traffic stop is about a survival, yet for our counterparts it’s an opportunity to recite their civics lexicon.
As Dr. Marc Lamont Hill said when responding to Mr. Houck’s unfortunate claim of “arrogance,” Black people have the right to “assert their dignity in public.”
I, yesterday, when faced with ignorance and bigotry, asserted my knowledge of both Ms. Bland’s case and politics in general. And when faced with an egregious abuse of power, Ms. Bland asserted her rights, dignity and humanity. At neither instance was arrogance at play.
America today is at a cross road and the direction of our society could go either way. Down one path is a democracy where there’s a serious effort by all who inhabit this land to create a fair, justice and equitable space for all people to pursue happiness.
This land ensures the rights of police officers to do their jobs with valor and support from government, while also equipping citizens with rights and tools in real-time to defend against tyranny.
This land has a balance in power and isn’t controlled solely by billionaires and powerful unions. This land celebrates hard-working achievers, rehabilitates those who make mistakes and imprison those who pose a severe threat to freedom and safety.
Or, we could choose the other path, which is similar to the one we’re already on. This land enables state sanctioned violence against people of color, while promising them reparations in court, but only if they survive the encounter, and only if there’s a jury who can see past color and into humanity.
This path gives all the power to a badge and none to a person. And more caustically, this land benefits from the oppression, enslavement and imprisonment of others.
For all the mysteries still surrounding the Sandra Bland case, what we should stand firm in knowing is at least three things: she wasn’t arrogant, she didn’t deserve to be arrested and she’s in a much better place, a place much further away from our current path.
*Tune into 900amWURD or 900amWURD.com every Friday evening during the 6 o’clock hour to hear me relive #TheWeekThatWas*
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™