#SayHerName

| by Shonell Bacon |

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Suicide or Murder?

That is a question currently being asked about the death of Sandra Bland.

It is an important question; I truly believe that.

But it is equally important, I would say more important, that we don’t lose focus on other important questions, questions that may be swept under the rug if findings show suicide over murder.

If all findings show that Sandra Bland killed herself in that cell, for media, and probably for most of law enforcement, this story is a wrap, done.

But this answer only truly answers the specific end of Sandra’s life.

There are far too many questions that will be left unanswered.

In the video(s) we’ve been shown from the officer’s dash cam—whether edited or no—there are several actions to still wade through and determine their legality or illegality.

I’m not talking about Sandra and her right to speak on her rights. Her right to HAVE rights and exert them. This is never illegal; there may be deadly consequences for speaking up, and for Blacks, this is a constant consequence, but still… this is not illegal, so people, please stop saying this woman should have shut her mouth, should have complied with the okey-doke and did everything the officer said, legal or no. So, please, please stop calling Bland an angry black woman, especially other black women. I can’t even explain the level of anger and frustration that exudes in me when I see other black women tearing this woman down. It kills a part of me. It truly does. Point, blank, period, Sandra could have been you.

She could have been me.

One night, a few years ago, I was on my way home from picking up my daughter at the hospital and taking her home. It was after midnight when I dropped her off at her apartment and headed home. The roads were quiet, and I was so ready to be in my bed.

Out of nowhere, the red-blues flashed behind me. I had never been pulled over before, and I was scared. I barely knew what to do. Yes, pull over, but where? Would I block other cars that might come down the road by just pulling over?

Eventually, I pulled over, and the officer approached my window and asked for license and registration.

For a moment, I couldn’t remember what those things were. Fear smothered me. All my life, I had been afraid of the police. I didn’t trust them the times they came to (not) help my mother when she called them on my father. I didn’t trust them when I saw them jack my brothers and male cousins up on their cars for no other reason than them being outside (oh, and black). I didn’t trust them when they rode up and down our streets, pointing a finger as if to say, “I’m watching y’all. Best be good now, you hear?”

I fumbled in my wallet, my glove compartment for the requested items.

He told me my blinker didn’t work when I turned onto the street. How did he know? Maybe I forgot to signal. But I didn’t ask.

For some time, I worked hard to find my license. My fingers were like slicked with oil it seemed; everything I touched just slipped out of my fingers’ reach.

“Look, if you don’t have a license, you can just tell me that,” he said.

“I have one. I’m just nervous,” I said.

He looked at me, beside me, and into the back seat. “Why do you feel the need to be nervous?”

And I told him the truth… in the firmest, yet softest voice I could: “Because I’m black. Because you are a white cop. Because we’re on a dark road with NOBODY else around. And I’m scared.”

I don’t know if it was my words, the way I spoke them, the kindness of the officer—I suggest God’s intervention, but the police officer simply said, “Check your blinker. Good night,” and left me there, shaken and on the verge of tears.

I could have been Sandra.

I realize this.

So did my mother when Sandra died. She told me recently how it dawned on her that, that night, years ago, I could have not come home. It frightened her and made her sick. And knowing this made me sick, too.

So, when I say there are more important things to consider, STILL, beyond the means in which Sandra died, I’m not talking about her right to ask questions to the officer.

I’m talking about the legality of the officer’s actions during the pull over and altercation with Sandra.

There are laws, rules for what police can and can’t do. We know those. They are black and white—no pun intended. If we don’t lose focus on the truth, and scene by scene, intention by intention, examine what the officer said and did, we can see that there were several illegal moves made by the officer.

These are important to focus on, to remember, because whether Sandra killed herself or was murdered is important, but the start of this story lays the groundwork for so much discussion about the end of Sandra’s life.

Sandra was a daughter. A sister. An aunt. An activist, who was on her way to a new stage in her life—a new job at her alma mater. A job that apparently mattered a lot to her as she told her mother in one of their last conversations, “Momma, now I know what my purpose is. My purpose is to go back to Texas. My purpose is to stop all social injustice in the South.”

Sandra was a woman on a mission, and that mission died as soon as she was pulled over for a minor traffic violation.

If the officer had simply “done his job,” would Sandra be alive today?

This, this is a vital question to answer. Whether suicide or murder, Sandra is dead. All people involved should be held accountable.

Shonell Bacon is a creative passionista. Author. Blogger. Coffee/Tea Junkie Addict. Crafter. Editor. Educator. Photographer. Screenwriter. Walker. Writing Mentor. A Jacqueline of all trades and a mistress of some, Shonell Bacon endeavors to educate, entertain, and excite. As an author, her women’s fiction, mysteries, and rom-coms leave readers satiated and hungry for more. For over 13 years, she has helped 100s of writers develop their writing craft through her editing services and articles. The end result, which Shonell loves, is seeing her clients excited to write that phenomenal next book. As an educator, she has taught English, mass communication, and fiction courses at the university level. 

Currently, when not fangirling over Benedict Cumberbatch, Investigation Discovery, and craptastic Syfy movies, Shonell is pursuing her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University while working as a mass communication instructor at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, LA.

You can learn more about Shonell at her website (http://shonellbacon.com) and her blog, Gurrl on the Rise (http://gurrlontherise.com).

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