Washington, DC – It’s shocking to see yet another video showing police using excessive, brutal force in an arrest for a non-violent offense. In this case, Sandra Bland was stopped by Texas police for failing to signal a lane change, thrown to the ground and held in a chokehold by multiple officers while she questioned why they were being so rough.
Three days later, Sandra Bland was found dead in a Waller County, Texas cell. For failing to signal a lane change?
Authorities claim it was suicide, but her friends and relatives say it was foul play. They point to the fact that in 2012, another inmate was found hanging in the same jail after being charged with assaulting an officer, marijuana possession, and evading arrest with a vehicle.
It’s long past time for our nation’s leaders to stop reacting to each incident of police brutality as an isolated incident and come to terms with what’s fundamentally broken in our justice system.
State sanctioned violence against Black individuals is an issue for antiracist feminists of all colors. Crucially, we must recognize the degree to which Black women are uniquely targeted by police. More than one million women are currently under the supervision of the criminal justice system in the U.S., and more than 200,000 of these women are in state and federal prisons or local jails. The number of women in prison has increased at nearly double the rate of men since 1985. What’s more, Black women are more than three times as likely as white women to be incarcerated in prison or jail, and Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely to be institutionalized.
The state of Texas has assigned the Texas Rangers to investigate the death of Sandra Bland, but considering the history of Waller County–where as many as 4 jailhouse deaths have been ruled “suicides” and whose sheriff was fired as police chief of another Texas town over allegations of racism–that’s not enough. We call on the U.S. Justice Department to conduct a full investigation into what happened to Sandra Bland, and what systemic change is needed in Waller County.