Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman, is dead because of her skin color. A police officer stopped her for a routine traffic stop but Bland’s real crime in the mind of the officer and some Americas is that she is a black woman with a bad attitude. Attitude or no attitude, race and dark skin are a marker like no other in the modern world. In the articulation of race and through the 50 shades of structured blackness and manufactured darkness in daily life, we must reconcile that all social, economic, political, religious, media and cultural rights, representations and privileges are negotiated with race consciousness.
Let’s cut through the lies and deceptions and confront at least for once head on that blackness in the contemporary world is ascribed with inferiority both explicitly and implicitly. Anyone claiming otherwise does not have the honesty to examine their own thoughts and beliefs on race as well as the world around them. Denial of the centrality of race in America and the world is a major problem. More than 20 years ago Cornel West correctly observed that race matters in his book “Race Matters,” and more so today than it was at the time of the book’s publishing in 1994.
Even though it is a socially constructed phenomenon, race is deadly and still matters in today’s America. Bland was subject to different treatment at the hands of the police officer because she refused to act and respond according to her classification and assigned power position of being a black woman, an “inferior human” and not permitted to challenge the existing racial matrix that is foundational in America and Western society in general. Race is about power, control, domination and was constructed over a long period of time and not a simple expression of discrimination or negative attitudes toward black people.
Black people, from the racist perspective, must act and conduct themselves “appropriately” when dealing with the superior racial group, i.e., white people, otherwise they will have to be disciplined to know their correct place in society. Bland’s refusal to accept her positional relationship to the officer caused him to escalate the use of his power to put her, the black woman, back into the “normative” position that she, based on America’s racial structure, must occupy and never allowed to challenge or escape How many white people on a daily basis confront and respond to an officer’s order with 10 times the intensity, arrogance and more frequent use of profanity than Bland, but yet are not arrested and slammed to the ground, let alone beaten and then die in custody.
Bland possibly should not have been stopped in the first place, but as we know, driving while black is a “crime” in today’s America. Bland should not have been arrested, but blackness is a suspicious category by itself and walking while black is a “sufficient ground” for stop and frisk and even arrest. Bland should never have been placed in jail in the first place for a simple traffic stop, but if you operate with the logic of capturing a “runaway slave” and making sure the prison industrial complex, a refined control and economic structure, is kept humming and turning profit then it was the right thing to do. America’s police departments, justice and prison systems are structured around race and operate to control, confine and treat all black bodies as commodities.
America is not a colorblind society but one that is blinded by racism and compounded levels of ignorance as to what racism and white power is all about. How many more African-American men and women will have to lose their lives because of the embedded racial structure in today’s America.
The police officer acted the racial role assigned to him by America’s structural racism, which allows him and other police officers to use brute force and power to put blacks” in their place,” i.e., an inferior subhuman that must demonstrate respect in words and deeds to whiteness and institutional white supremacy. It is not the visible hoods worn by crude racists that concerns me but the one resting deeply inside the mind that regulates and covers our consciousness while making it possible to accept as a norm the racial worldview and the daily coming and going of racism. The indifference to black suffering and the slow death brought about by racism should concern everyone and move us all to action.
Bland’s crime in the eyes of America’s structural racism and white supremacist worldview is that she refused to accept the embedded inferiority ascribed to her ontologically and epistemologically. Indeed, the police officer used force against Bland, but America’s structural racism granted him and others the power to do it over and over again. The autopsy said Bland committed suicide, but the real cause of death is America’s racism.