By Christina Perry
On July 9th, Sandra Bland left her home in Naperville, IL en route to Prairie View, Texas. Sandra, 28, had recently accepted a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M.
On July 10th, just miles away from campus, she was stopped by a police officer for allegedly failing to use her turning signal when changing lanes.
The seemingly routine traffic stop escalated as video of the incident shows two police offers forcibly restraining Bland on the ground near her vehicle. She was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer.
On July 13th, she was found dead in her jail cell.
We can honor her life — and the lives of countless other Black women killed during police encounters — by disrupting the narrative around police violence in this country and demanding equal protection of Black womanhood and Black women’s bodies from state violence.
We know that Black women are being victimized as the result of state-sanctioned violence. We know that this often gender-specific violence takes many forms and extends beyond the use of excessive and lethal force.
We know that Black women and girls are consistently rendered invisible in the discussion surrounding police brutality. Black women are hyper-visible; however, in the movement to address and reform the systems of oppression reinforcing state violence against communities of color.
However, Americans continue to dissect police brutality and state-sanctioned violence almost exclusively through the frame of Black maleness and the use of lethal force.
Enough is enough. We must be emboldened to disrupt the narrative. Yes, we must protect Black men and boys. We must encourage each other to be our “Brother’s Keeper”. But, Black womanhood must be valued and protected with the same vigor.
The devaluation of Black womanhood and Black women’s bodies through state-sanctioned violence and sexual assault is not a modern phenomenon. Black womanhood in this country has been irrevocably shaped by the collusion of two distinct forces: sexist oppression and the realities of racism. In order for Black women to be fully protected by any policy reform, this intersectionality — and how it informs police interactions with women of color — must be recognized and affirmed in the public conversation surrounding police brutality.
If the impetus for policy changes is defined by a male-specific frame, Black women will remain vulnerable to continued violence.