When I get extremely overwhelmed, my exposure to current events is limited to Facebook. I don't have time for much else. When I'm really, really overwhelmed, I don't even have time for Facebook.
So when I got invited to a vigil for Sandra Bland, I didn't even know what it was about. The next day during professional development, two of our staff members led a session on culturally responsive education, and they showed the footage of her arrest.
I can't even begin to describe what I felt while watching it. Outrage. Disgust. Desperation. A lack of hope.
It was so hard to watch a smart, educated black woman--who knew her rights--try to defend herself against a racist, domineering, oppressive white man. She was irritated about being pulled over for a failure to turn on her signal when changing lanes. He asked her to put out her cigarette. She knew she had the right to smoke in her own car and she let him know it. She knew he could not make her get out of her car without telling her why and she told him so. As she defended herself, his need to control, oppress, and beat her down (figuratively and literally) continued.
When I hear people talk about "police brutality," I can't help but think the real problem in this situation is so much bigger than police brutality. It's about a dominator-dominated society, who has power, and how they use that power to oppress other people. And it's about racism because who has power and who gets oppressed tend to fall along racial lines.
I almost backed out of going to the vigil because I was overwhelmed with work and closing my eyes from fatigue at 7pm. And then I read a post from my friend on Facebook who said the least we can do as white people is SHOW UP. I knew he was right. I knew I couldn't live with myself if I used my white privilege to get out of a vigil for a courageous black woman just because I was tired.
Because people of color can't ever get out of this. This is their reality day in and day out. Their people are getting killed by police in the streets, being punished in schools at disproportionate rates, suffering from health issues at disproportionate rates. If I were Sandra Bland, I can't even imagine how fed up I would have been. I don't even know if I could have talked to a racist white police officer as calmly as she did.
I want to share an excellent piece of writing on this topic. I'm conscious of the fact that it's the white voices that get "shared," "liked," and heard more often. So I seek to share the voices of people of color as often as possible. This piece is a powerful read.
"Sandra, from the beginning, refused to give up her power. And in that jail cell suicide may have been a form of resistance and an astounding statement of self-love. A statement saying I will not give you the power to kill me and I love myself enough to not endure you killing me slowly."