July 30, 2015 at 11:36 am EDT | by Lateefah Williams
White supremacy, racism killed Sandra Bland
Sandra Bland, gay news, Washington Blade

Sandra Bland died in a Texas jail after what should have been a routine traffic stop. (Photo courtesy Facebook)

Ever since Sandra Bland died in a Texas jail cell earlier this month, her case has been on my mind. I noted in my January column titled, “Black Women’s Lives Matter, Too,” that black women are subjected to police brutality and have been murdered by the police, but the community never rallies around those cases, and are often not even aware of them. Until now, none of those cases had garnered the amount of attention or outrage as the deaths of black men by law enforcement.

For whatever reason, people could not wrap their heads around women being brutalized, so the dashboard camera plays a major role in allowing people to see much of the interaction between Bland and the officer. Bland was also an outspoken, attractive, college-educated, Black Lives Matter activist. This matters in terms of folks who only like to fight for “the right kind of people,” which is also known as the “respectability” mantra.

Most people who feel Sandra Bland was unjustly killed believe she was murdered by the police and are demanding accountability for that murder. It matters if the police murdered her in terms of getting the harshest sentence for the perpetrators. However, it’s already clear, whether Bland died by a police officer’s hand or her own hand, they killed her. White supremacy and racism killed her the same way it slowly kills millions of African Americans in this country. Constantly being stereotyped, marginalized, vilified, and, all too often, working harder than most for a meager subsistence gets to you. Each day, it kills a part of your spirit.

Take, for instance, the stereotype of the “angry black woman.” Although I’m soft-spoken and though I sometimes hate to admit it, shy, I have recently been stereotyped as an angry black woman by some white people in the local political and media scene. My ethnic features have been used as a source of disdain and derision as these mean-spirited, racist bullies have spread rumors that I’m always angry and walk around with my bottom lip sticking out. Um, I have thick lips and, yes, my bottom lip protrudes out further than my top lip. But no, I’m not poking out my lip in anger, my bottom lip just sticks out—and many of my African brothers and sisters happen to think I’m quite cute, I may add. The fact that this, and other, malicious gossip has been spread continuously by people who don’t look like me, don’t share my culture, and apparently have no knowledge of or respect for African features, is just one illustration of what it’s like to navigate a society that constantly kills your spirit. This is the type of stuff that eats at you each day.

It also lets me know that the “angry black woman” stereotype is so pervasive and so believable to white folks that all actions can be made to fit into the stereotype when displayed by black women, even if those actions contradict one another. Thus, if you are a passionate vocal advocate, you’re angry. If you are soft-spoken, you’re not overly vocal because you’re angry. If you look people directly in the eyes, you’re angry. If you take a more subservient demeanor and divert your eyes or look down, you’re angry.

To be a black woman in America often means that a piece of your spirit is crushed each day. You graduate from college and maybe even get an advanced degree, but none of that shields you from the daily indignities that you will face.

A few years ago, in the Eastern Market area, I pulled behind a minivan as the minivan’s occupants were getting into the car. Happy to find a parking space, I patiently waited as they got into the vehicle and put the kids into the car seat. There was a white male police officer on the other side of the street. I didn’t think anything of it when he walked over to my car. I let my window down, so I could hear what he wanted to tell me. He then started to berate me about parking illegally and I calmly explained that I was not parked, I was waiting for the car in front of me to pull out of their parking space, so I could park there. He then starts speaking in a very aggressive and hostile tone, and when I try to respond, he snaps back, “shut up, don’t say a word.” He then goes on about whether I can afford a $200 ticket. After he finished his rant, I pulled into the parking space and he walked away. His hostility was unnecessary and I was boiling inside. I was too taken aback at the time to get his name or badge number. After I got out of the car, I saw him standing on the corner, but I chose my personal safety over confronting him to get his badge number. On Inauguration Day in 2008, I also experienced this same hostility from a white male police officer, whose hostile tone and aggression startled me so much, I dropped and broke my camera.

So, when the officer started speaking in a hostile tone toward Sandra Bland, I recognized the tone immediately. It is the same demeaning, hostile tone that white male officers have used toward me on several instances.

This hostility comes from a place of interacting with someone who you don’t deem to be equal. When you are black, a woman, and either young or young-looking, my experience has shown that some white male officers take any assertion that you are their equal as a personal affront. This belief extends far beyond interactions with law enforcement and the repercussions of this mentality often manifest itself in hostile behavior from some white men in other settings.

My situation with the police officer in Eastern Market could have escalated if I did not swallow my pride and allow this hostile officer to disrespect me. However, I wanted to respond as Sandra Bland did. You can’t imagine how demeaning it is for someone to yell “Shut up” in your face and to say nothing back because you’ve decided it’s the “practical” way to deescalate the situation and not get arrested or an unwarranted ticket. We go through this type of blatant hostility and disrespect every day and it gets to you.

Bland chose a healthy way of addressing the societal and systemic racism by connecting with the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet, she still found herself demeaned and in jail for a minor traffic offense, after, if her experiences have been anything like mine, a lifetime of pushing to persevere and thrive in a hostile society.

We may never truly know if the police murdered Sandra Bland or if she technically died by her own hand. But one thing is abundantly clear: No matter the circumstances, white supremacy and racism killed her.

 

Lateefah Williams is a regular contributor to the Washington Blade.

38 Comments
  • Cops in the US have come to think of themselves as unquestionable authorities, and that citizens, especially black citizens, must immediately concede to their demands. Every cop in the US should undergo intense psychological testing. Those deemed unfit should be fired. The rest need to be retrained.

    • Gays in the US have come to think of themselves as unquestionable authorities, and that citizens, especially straight majority citizens, must immediately concede to their demands. Every gay in the US should undergo intense psychological testing. Those deemed unfit should be hung. The rest need to be detained.

      • Your analogy doesn’t work. You’re equating chosen identities with essential identities. A person is born black, or gay, or left-handed. A person chooses to be a Christian fundamentalist, or a Republican, or a cop. So, given the behaviors of cops in recent years, it’s worthwhile to investigate what would lead a person to become a cop. Does he enjoy exercising power over other people? Or does he want to serve the public? Or maybe he wants to serve part of the public (e.g., middle- and upper-class white people) but not all the public? These motivations need to be investigated.

        • Additionally, there is nothing in my gayness that inherently gives me the power of life and death over the people around me. I was born gay, but I didn’t come out of my mother’s vagina with a gun and a badge. A cop has the power of life and death over the people around him. And for some reason he chose to assume that power as part of his career and identity. Why?

        • That destroys your ridiculous Marxist (leftist) arguments that race is a social construct.
          Keep talking.

          • Actually, no I didn’t. Race is a social construct, based on the deliberate enslavement and subsequent discrimination against a specific group of people, that was enforced by government fiat and societal norms up to the present day. The operative difference is choice. While the racial category of blackness is socially constructed, a black person can never opt out of that construct. But a cop can choose not to be a cop any longer. He can turn in his gun and badge and walk away from holding the power of life and death over his fellow man.

          • “A person is born black”

            ” Race is a social construct”

            You can’t be helped sodomite.

      • You do realize that even most straight white people would consider you to be an extremist mentally ill nut job.

  • Civil rights advocates in the US have come to think of themselves as unquestionable authorities, and that citizens, especially white citizens, must immediately concede to their demands. Every anti-white civil rights advocate in the US should undergo intense psychological testing. Those deemed unfit should be fired. The rest need to be retrained.

  • And nothing of value was lost…

  • White supremacy killed Sanda Bland, while blacks, 13% of the population, committed over 50% of murders.

    https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/tables/table-43

    • What’s your point, other than that you’re a racist arsehole? The same link you gave shows white people commit most of the rapes and child molestations. Does tha mean we should go around and stereotype all white men as perverts? As a white person I say to you quit embarrassing my race with your racist crap.

      • “The same link you gave shows white people commit most of the rapes and child molestations.”

        Are you sure you’re White? You’re doing math here like a nigger. There are far more Whites in America than there are blacks. Blacks commit literally every single crime more often than Whites on a per capita basis.

        “Does tha mean we should go around and stereotype all white men as perverts?”

        Nobody cares what catladies like you do. Go ahead and stereotype all you like. It won’t change the world, because you and your ilk are irrelevant.

        “As a white person I say to you quit embarrassing my race with your racist crap.”

        As a straight White married Christian man with three blonde-haired/blue-eyed children, I say to you: kill yourself. Seriously. The world is better off without race traitors.

        • As a straight White married Christian man with three blonde-haired/blue-eyed children, I say to you: kill yourself. Seriously. The world is better off without race traitors.

          LOL, what is a “straight white Christian man” doing commenting on an opinion written by an African American woman in a gay media outlet in the middle of the night? I can only imagine what a skank the wife is, you’re obviously more interested in trolling the net with your racist rants in gay media sources which are clearly your way of lashing out because you like cock but don’t have the balls to deal with it. I hope your kids felt up by a creepy white child mo. Seriously.

        • As a straight White married Christian man with three blonde-haired/blue-eyed children, I say to you: kill yourself. Seriously. The world is better off without race traitors.

          LOL, what is a “straight white Christian man” doing commenting on an opinion written by an African American woman in a gay media outlet in the middle of the night? I can only imagine what a skank the wife is. Is she laying in bed with her knappy who*re cootchie smelling up the sheets? Is that why your trolling on the Internet instead of f*cking the big smelly wh*re? You’re obviously more interested in trolling the net with your racist rants in gay media sources which are clearly your way of lashing out because you like cock but don’t have the balls to deal with it. I hope your kids get felt up by a creepy white child mo. Actually, judging be your overt mental illness and self loathing, you’re probably molesting your own kids yourself. Seriously. The world is better off without racist SOBs like yourself.

    • apples & oranges, that has nothing to do with “this issue” stop deflecting!

    • “while blacks, 13% of the population, committed over 50% of murders.”

      Or, perhaps whites tend to be well-connected enough to white prosecutors and white judges to not have a proper proportion of the killings that they commit deemed to be “murder.”

  • I still don’t understand why White people have to be so racist to niggers all the time

  • Every time you say nigger, an ugly black woman commits suicide in jail. And a white angel gets it’s wings

  • Us blacks need segregation or money so we can go back to Africa! No more carrying the white man on our shoulders. Just think how rich and good a country of our own would be without whites!

  • “But all our phrasing—race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.”
    — Ta-Nehisi Coates
    ——–
    “My situation with the police officer in Eastern Market could have escalated if I did not swallow my pride and allow this hostile officer to disrespect me. However, I wanted to respond as Sandra Bland did. You can’t imagine how demeaning it is for someone to yell “Shut up” in your face and to say nothing back because you’ve decided it’s the “practical” way to deescalate the situation and not get arrested or an unwarranted ticket. We go through this type of blatant hostility and disrespect every day and it gets to you.”
    — Lateefah Williams”

    • Why did you quote them?

    • Blacks commit 56% of all robbery, despite only 12% of the population. Source: FBI Crime in America 2013 Database

      Blacks commit 53% of all murder, despite being only 12% of the population. Source: FBI Crime in America 2013 Report

      Despite making up less than 7% of the US population, black males commit 1 in every 3 rapes. Source: FBI Crime in America 2013 Report

      Young black men kill 14X more than young white men. Source: Time Magazine

      Blacks make up more than 50% of all homicide victims. Source: US Department of Justice

      42% of all cop killers are black. Source: 2013 FBI Statistics on Law Enforcement Officers Killed

      Blacks victims of homicide are 93% of the time killed by other blacks. Source: US Department of Justice

      In 2006, blacks made up nearly 40% of the total prison population, despite being only 12% of the general population. Source:Bureau of Justice

      Black males have “mean testosterone levels 19% higher than in whites, and free testosterone levels were 21% higher”. Higher levels of testosterone are linked to aggression. Source: US National Library of Medicine

      Some facts on the family dynamic and education achievement of blacks in America:

      73% of black babies are born out of wedlock. Source: US Department of Health Statistics

      67% of black children grow up without a father, compared to 25% for whites and only 17% for Asians. Source: US Census surveys and National Kid Count

      In 2012, the mean critical reading SAT score for college accepted students was 428 for blacks and 527 for whites. For mathematics, it was 428 for blacks and 536 for whites. For writing it was 417 for blacks and 515 for whites. Source: US Department of Education

      At both the grade 4 and grade 8 level, there is a persistent achievement gap between whites and blacks in both mathematics test scores and reading test scores in ALL states. Source: 2007 US Department of Education National Education Assessment

      Some facts on intelligence levels of blacks:

      1) Whites on average have a 15 point higher IQ than blacks, across many different studies.

      > “There is a long-standing 15 point or 1 standard deviation difference between the intelligence test scores of African Americans and White Americans, though it might have narrowed slightly in the then recent years. The difference was largest on those tests, verbal or non-verbal, that best represented the general intelligence factor (g).”

      Source: American Psychological Association

      2) IQ across different ethnic groups in the US: Blacks have an average IQ of 85, whites of 103, Asians 106 and Jewish Americans 113:

      >The study found that the average IQ for African Americans was lower than those for Latino, White, Asian, and Jewish Americans (85, 89, 103, 106, and 113, respectively; Herrnstein & Murray, 1994, pp. 273–278)

      Source: University of California and University of Western Ontario

      3) Overall, 18% of Asians have an IQ over 120, 10% of whites do and only 1% of blacks. Nearly 84% of blacks have an IQ below 100, which is slightly below the average IQ for whites. The ratio of white Americans to black Americans who have an IQ over 125 is 30:1.

      >The IQ gap between blacks and whites in the United States—15-17 points—has not changed since it was first measured nearly a century ago. Both races’ test scores rose during the century, but the gap remained as large at the end of the century as at the beginning despite considerable social change.

      Source: University of Delaware

      4) For those who claim that IQ tests are biased against blacks and that’s why they keep getting lower scores, there are IQ tests like the Raven’s Progressive Matrices which don’t have any language and rely entirely on visual pattern recognition. It’s simply finding patterns in visual shapes. Even then there is a marked difference between black and white IQ scores, not only in America but internationally as well, like in Africa between white and black engineering students:

      Source: University of Johannesberg

      5) Harvard psychologists took a look at how black children adopted by well off upper-middle class white families at a very young age perform on IQ tests once they grow up in white families with good socioeconomic conditions. Black children adopted by white parents average 89 on IQ tests at age 17 (slightly better than the 85 average for blacks nationally). White children who grew up in the same households and had white biological parents on average scored 109. Even with the same socioeconomic upbringing, the racial IQ gap remains.

      >The Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study examined the IQ test scores of 130 black or interracial children adopted by advantaged white families. The aim of the study was to determine the contribution of environmental and genetic factors to the poor performance of black children on IQ tests as compared to white children. The studies’ general findings were that the IQs of children of a particular race did not differ significantly depending on whether they were raised by their biological parents or by adoptive parents of a different race. The gap between black and white IQ scores remained even if growing up in the same family.

      Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnesota_Transracial_Adoption_Study

      6) East Asian countries have on average the highest IQ scores. African countries have on average the lowest. European countries are generally between the Asian and African countries.

      Source: http://www.statisticbrain.com/countries-with-the-highest-lowest-average-iq/

      7) Blacks performs substantially worse in standard school tests than whites.

      > From the higher education achievement perspective: In 2012, the mean critical reading SAT score for college accepted students was 428 for blacks and 527 for whites. For mathematics, it was 428 for blacks and 536 for whites. For writing it was 417 for blacks and 515 for whites.

      Source: US Department of Education

      8) From the elementary education achievement perspective: At both the grade 4 and grade 8 level, there is a persistent achievement gap between whites and blacks in both mathematics test scores and reading test scores in ALL states.

      Source: 2007 US Department of Education National Education Assessment

      9) For those looking to pin the lower IQ scores of blacks on socioeconomic factors, IQ is largely genetically determined:

      > Estimates in the academic research of the heritability of IQ have varied from below 0.5 to a high of 0.8. (where 1.0 indicates that monozygotic twins have no variance in IQ and 0 indicates that their IQs are completely uncorrelated) Various studies have found the heritability of IQ to be between 0.7 and 0.8 in adults and 0.45 in childhood in the United States.[6][9][18]

      Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heritability_of_IQ#Estimates_of_the_heritability_of_IQ

  • If White supremacy is so terrible, why don’t black people leave us alone and form their own countries? Go back to Africa, it’s obvious black people and White People will never get along, let’s just give it up.

  • I shall burn a cross in my front yard in her name.

  • Is there an equivalent to Lewis’ Law for discussions on racism? (Lewis’
    Law states, “the comments on any article about feminism justify
    feminism”.) I’ve made the mistake of reading the comments, and
    white people have really disturbed me.

  • WOW Washington Blade after reading some of these comments please don’t claim that there’s no racism within this community!

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