Sandra Bland: Black America’s Little Dark Secret
“…the sad part is she died alone. Michael Brown Died with someone there who could tell his story, same for Oscar Grant, Eric Gardener and most of the others. This beautiful young woman died alone, and that is what kicks me in my gut. She died alone and afraid.” ~ Dr. Rick Wallace, Ph.D.
This article started out as a post on Facebook, where I openly expressed my pain and frustration surrounding the death of Sandra Bland, and the possibility that the black community has some culpability in her demise. I felt the need to share it on a broader platform, while expanding on the concept on which I make my claim. Let’s discuss, with veracity, what happened to Sandra Bland.
As I open up the following possibilities and realities, it is immensely important to understand that I am not an advocate of law enforcement. In fact, I have very little confidence in law enforcement and its current culture of treating blacks as hostile aliens to a nation that was built on the backs of their ancestors. This is a clarion being sounded to the black community that our slip is hanging.
I’m Hurting Right Now!
The more that I look at this Sandra Bland case, the more saddened and frustrated I become. The truth is, black people, we have some culpability in this as well. We don’t want to face the possibility of the darkness that may very well be at the core of this tragic situation. Yes, I fervently question the overzealous behavior of the trooper that decided to escalate the situation instead of deescalate it, as he was trained to do. Yes, I am aware that there are some questions concerning the initial release of the dash-cam video, which illuminates the willingness of law enforcement to cover its ass, at all costs. Yes, I know that the law enforcement community is not beyond a cover up, and I know that we are in the middle of a race war. None of this has evaded me, but there is an issue that has, not so much evaded Black America, as it has been ignored by Black America.
I am discovering that we may have really dropped the ball when it comes to being there for Sandra Bland. It seems that, outside of a few people on social media, no one wants to talk about the struggles this lady was having with depression and PTSD — not to mention the fact that there is evidence of self-harm. You see, the issue of depression serves to de-sensationalize her death, by possibly shifting culpability. While no one wants to discuss it, this woman was sending signals that she was suffering, and now my fear is that, based on all of +the people who say they knew her, but saw no signs of depression, she suffered in silence. Then there is the newly released footage of a voice mail she left a friend during her stay in jail, in which it is obvious that her spirit was deflated because she was having a hard time contacting people. The phone system in her cell was malfunctioning, and when she was allowed to come out to make calls, she was not able to reach the vast majority of the people she called, with the exception of her sister. I am afraid what happened to Sandra Bland may not be a good look for anyone.
Look, we pumped her up each and every time she posted her disdain for police brutality, we celebrated her tenacity in supporting the “Black Lives Matter” movement, but when she needed us most, she was alone. This is killing me. Our inability to address depression in the black community is costing us big time, and we are none the wiser. We want to fight the system, when the greatest enemy is within. Yes, I want justice for Sandra Bland, I want every person, entity, organization and group responsible to be held accountable; however, my greatest concern is that we, the black community, may be counted in that number. Our unwillingness to address mental illness, especially depression, does not come without virulent consequences.
The stigma associated with mental illness in the black community has led to an exorbitant umber of undiagnosed cases, which has some dire consequences, including self-harm, homicide and suicide. Am I declaring that this beautiful black woman took her own life? Absolutely not. I will not rob her family of due process in discovering the truth by making such conjecture; however, I am challenging every last one of my black sisters and brothers to give the dangers of untreated depression some serious consideration.
I continue to make the point that our greatest enemy is within. As a race of people, we are imploding, because of failing to engage our own issues. We have become highly astute at sweeping those things that make us uncomfortable under the rug. We have become experts at pointing the finger and playing the victim. We have become discomfort adverse. Anything that makes us uncomfortable is avoided with great passion. It is time to start engaging those things within the community that are directly inhibiting the elevation and empowerment of our people as a whole.
With all of the anger and frustration with law enforcement in this country, I can understand how difficult dealing with the implications of this issue can be, but we must be willing to deal from a place of truth. Clinical depression is a real and very serious condition, and although there are some resources, such as the Defeat Depression guide, that can help people cope with depression, there is no substitute for seeking professional assistance.
Am I giving any of the law enforcement officials a pass? Absolutely not. A lot went into creating the perfect storm that culminated in the death of this beautiful young black woman, and everybody needs to answer for the role they played. While we are using her death as a platform to fight the system, we need to use it to force ourselves to exam how we engage mental illness in our community. Yes, I want justice for Sandra Bland, but that can only come through truth, acceptance of the truth, and finally, a response to that truth. ~ Dr. Rick Wallace, Ph.D.
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