I know we’ve added many names to THE list in the year that has passed since Sandra Bland did… but I ain’t been right since hers was added. And I ain’t been blogging neither, so I’m gonna start back there although there is so much fresh heartbreak to explore. Please don’t assume that the others didn’t get to me. That I didn’t feel a punch in the gut when Trayvon went down, when Zimmerman went free, when the music stopped for Jordan, when Eric couldn’t breathe, a wrench in my heart when Tamir was ambushed while playing in the park, when Freddie’s spine was severed on the “joy” ride, when no on was held accountable, when Alton was pinned and gunned down, or when Diamond’s little girl witnessed that horror from just a few feet away in the backseat- just to name a few. I did feel it. I do.
But Sandra Bland, man. Sandra Bland was me. And I ain’t been right since. Sandra Bland was me, not only in the universal sense that because separation is an illusion and everyone is me and I am everyone, but because in the most practical, earthly, human, american way Sandra Bland was me.
I love to drive. Which is great because I drive a LOT for work. I love to drive fast. And safely. Those things, too, are not mutually exclusive. I am not reckless, I just like a little speed. I like forward motion. I like advancing toward a goal. My dosha is clearly Pitta and once I have direction, I am off. 0-60 in no time flat. That’s my approach in all things really for better or worse. The way you do one thing is the way you do everything. As a baby I ran first, then walked, then checked out the crawling thing. I was born this way. It’s my baseline. Various life lessons and my kundalini yoga practice have taught me the art and joys of savoring, of taking time, of being still… but still, I love to GO.
My anger has been tempered through these practices and experiences, too. But, seeing as I am human and anger is a natural emotion inherently woven throughout the human experience, I still get angry. And sometimes it happens quickly. Especially in the face of perceived injustice. In that intersection between speed and anger is exactly where Sandra Bland and I are one.
I have been pulled over. It seems to happen in spurts with me. Thank God there usually are long intervals in between. When I was a new driver I got pulled over a few times. In the suburbs. I always smiled sweetly and played dumb and drove away with a warning. Maybe I really was dumb, not playing at anything, because I had no fear in those situations aside from “I hope I don’t get a ticket” and “I hope my parents don’t find out.” That was some kind of biracial white privilege induced ignorance, I guess. Or maybe it was the era. In the mid-late 90s we didn’t have cell phones at the ready, social media, incessant news reels. There were no images in my mind of police brutality. None that seemed extremely relevant anyway. Rodney King seemed like a terrible one off. I’d seen black and white pictures from the 60s, heard my mother’s stories about the dogs being unleashed on the black people and any “uncolored” supporters, but as far as I knew that was then and this was now and we were living in a world where a black and a white person made me… and I was having a pretty good life so…
Fast forward to my next set of traffic stops. Four years ago. So much hadn’t happened yet, so I was more upset by being made late to work and any fines that would be incurred than I was afraid for my life…but I was angrier. I’d had more experiences in the real world. I knew my “place” in the minds of the general white public and I was easily angered by the slightest whiff of prejudice, racism, or arrogance of any kind. Full of self-righteous indignation. And one of those traffic stops in particular reeked of all of that. But I’m pretty smart, and I needed to get to my appointment, so I kept my cool, took the uncalled for amount violations, points on my license, and the fines and I kept on going.
But what if I hadn’t? What if I had questioned why I was getting three tickets for a seemingly minor offense that was innocently fueled by a navigation system that kept changing it’s mind and suddenly called on me to exit the highway immediately from the far left lane? What if I acknowledged what was really going on? What if I allowed my bad attitude to match the officer’s? What if I had “talked back”? Thank God I’ll never know, but all I can think is: Sandra Bland. Maybe that’s what would have happened. And maybe it would have taken my white dad too long to get from the middle of the country to the east coast to come in and humanize me and validate my right to decent treatment as he was called on to do when I was in the emergency room with a broken neck. And maybe I would be dead.
So, I ain’t been right since Sandra Bland because Sandra Bland was me. In the past year I have noticed that though I generally prefer to drive solo so I can chant mantras as loudly as I want and I don’t have to worry about making passengers uncomfortable with my confident driving (I live and drive in NYC for goodness sake, I have to be confident), I prefer to drive with white people in my car. Cuz like maybe if I get pulled over they can vouch for my character, or their presence will validate my existence, or… anything… whatever will save me from whatever might happen. Sometimes when I see police cars on the road, signs of physical distress manifest quickly. Three months ago I got pulled over for speeding. I was speeding. No need for self righteous indignation there. But the sheer terror I felt in anticipation of the experience as I was pulling onto the shoulder of the freeway…it’s as frightened as I can recall ever having been. The self-admonition I doled out when I realized I forgot to take off the bandana I was wearing to keep the frizz down til I got to work was harsh. I have since forgiven myself, even though I got a ticket and not a warning.
It’s been exactly one year since Sandra Bland. Looking around here I think, ain’t none of us been right since because look at how much is going wrong. But I know that isn’t true. That doesn’t feel true. That’s the hurt and anger and fear talking. And I hold space for all of that within myself, within us. And I hold space also for the love and peace that can be found when tending to the aftermath of a broken heart. A broken heart, is an open heart. As a collective, we are not encouraged to have open hearts. That takes courage and awareness. And people who are brave and awake aren’t so easily influenced or scared into buying things. #consumerism.
But here we are, a broken hearted nation. A nation who repeatedly has broken it’s own heart. And things have escalated to a point where more and more of us are unable to remain ignorant. Or silent. I’m hoping we can make the most of this opportunity to lean in and nurture our brokenness into openness into oneness.
Anne Lamott said: “Hope is not about proving anything. It’s about choosing to believe this one thing- that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us.”
p.s. “i ain’t been right” is kind of a figure of speech. if there is such a thing as “(al)right”, i have been it all along 🙂
Wonderful assessment of what has been and is occurring in this Country.
I understand completely. I saw myself in Sandra Bland as well, mouthing off at the ridiculousness of it all and then because of the nerve of that officer to man handle me …..I could go on on.
Don’t let it get to you. This is a war on for your mind. Take up your shield of Faith and follow those that have lead you throughout your life. You only let people control your fear, if they have control over your fear or emotions, they have taken you already. Have no fear. Confront what fear you have head on and defeat it! Yes, I am a Christian.
We are beginning to see what a police state looks like. Like Germany did in the 1930’s. There is surveillance everywhere. There are storm troopers everywhere. This did not happen overnight. Since 911 and the patriot act, we have begun to see it as a nation fears everything and everyone is offended by somebody somewhere.
From what I do know about Sandra Bland and what happened between her and that Texas Trooper, the trooper had no right to arrest her for lighting up a cig in her own car. Then, in jail, God only knows what happened to her. She is not the first this happened to, nor will she be the last. People do commit suicide in jails. People get killed in jails all the time and in prison, even more often.
Bless you and yours, and may you have a Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year!
I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who fears an encounter with police (or somebody else) that could result in my death.
One night a few years ago, I was driving home from visiting my mother when a police car pulled up aggressively beside me.
Whoever was in the car started shining a spotlight into my car as I drove, nearly blinding me. There was NO need for them to do this…I’m not a criminal. They simply did it because they could.
I’m thankful that I was not pulled over or harmed, but I was shaken by the incident. I can relate to what you feel.
When the news about Sandra Bland came out, I was horrified. It sucks that she was most likely killed because she dared to drive while being a Black woman and she dared to stand up to a cop who was abusing his power.
I saw a bit of myself in her too, as somebody who has been stereotyped as having “attitude” anytime I dare to stand up for myself.
A lot of people today say that “Blue Lives Matter”…fair enough. But when those who are meant to protect and serve wind up brutalizing, even killing innocent people, something is deeply wrong.
Having a badge and a gun seems to make them feel that they are entitled to hurt people without just cause.
@John Henry Bicycle Lucas…I think it went beyond her smoking a cigarette. The officer clearly felt challenged because she stood up to him. There were prior reports of him having racist encounters with other Black drivers before Sandra.
I agree with Tiffany that it’s better to cooperate rather than be injured or killed. I’m not blaming Sandra at all, but I feel that she might still be here if she’d complied.
Sometimes that’s what we have to do if we want to stay alive. It’s not right but escaping unharmed is more important than taking a stand sometimes.
I understand being angry at injustice and wanting to fight back, but sometimes it’s literally a matter of life and death.
Many of these cops don’t play. Some of them are extremely violent and when racism is thrown into the mix, it’s even worse.
One of the few cases I know of where a white person was killed by cops was Nicholas Dyksma, who was 18.
I believe he was a recovering cancer patient and one day he was taking a nap in his truck. When he woke up to see police surrounding him, he panicked and took off.
When the cops finally caught up with him, they beat him, then brutally slammed him to the ground in a choke hold.
He lost consciousness and eventually died. He was unarmed and not fighting in any way. Police brutality has always been an issue, and it’s just one of the many issues in this country.