I am tired of writing about slain black people, particularly when those responsible are police officers, the very people obligated to serve and protect them. I am exhausted. I experience this specific exhaustion with alarming frequency. I am all too aware that I have the luxury of such exhaustion.
One of the greatest lies perpetrated on our culture today is the notion that dash cameras on police cruisers and body cameras on police officers are tools of justice. Video evidence, no matter the source, can document injustice, but rarely does this incontrovertible evidence keep black people safe.
Sandra Bland, 28, was pulled over earlier this month in Waller County, Texas, by a state trooper, Brian T. Encinia. She was pulled over for a routine traffic stop. She shouldn’t have been pulled over, but she was driving while black, and the reality is that black women and men are pulled over every day for this infraction.
We know a lot about Bland now. She was in the prime of her life, about to start a new job at Prairie View A&M University. She had posted on Facebook this year that she was experiencing depression. She was passionate about civil rights and advocacy. According to an autopsy report, she committed suicide in her jail cell after three days. What I find particularly painful is that her bail was $5,000. Certainly, that is a lot of money, but if the public had known, we could have helped her family raise the funds to get her out.
Because Sandra Bland was driving while black, because she was not subservient in the manner this trooper preferred, a routine traffic stop became a death sentence. Even if Bland did commit suicide, there is an entire system of injustice whose fingerprints left bruises on her throat.
In his impassioned new memoir, “Between the World and Me,” Ta-Nehisi Coates writes, “In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body – it is heritage.” I would take this bold claim a step further. It is also traditional to try and destroy the black spirit. I don’t want to believe our spirits can be broken. Nonetheless, increasingly, as a black woman in America, I do not feel alive. I feel like I am not yet dead.
The New York Times
Roxane Gay is the author of “An Untamed State” and a contributing opinion writer.