It started within moments after Sandra Bland was found hanging in a Waller County jail cell. And it hasn’t let up for one moment since her dubious death. The “it” is the non-stop litany of
of veiled and not so veiled hints, innuendoes, digs, and crass, snide, accusing comments, remarks, slander and outright lies about Bland’s activities before, during and after her death. Here’s a brief checklist of the defamatory, self-serving, litany of slanders against her. She was uncooperative with Texas Highway Patrolman, Brian Encina. Her cigarette could have posed a potentially dangerous weapon. She smoked marijuana before and after her arrest. She had serious mental issues that made her suicidal. She had a block sized chip on her shoulder against law enforcement given her involvement with Black Lives Matter and her alleged diatribe against law enforcement on her Facebook page.
She was alive and in good spirits when she entered her jail cell. This comes courtesy of a video that Texas officials released to counter allegations that she was dead before she was booked. The video has been challenged both on the timing of its release and authenticity. Then to bolster their case that there was no foul play in her death, a co-inmate magically appeared to corroborate her supposed suicidal state.
For one brief moment Waller County prosecutors said that they’d investigate her death as a murder. It was just that, brief. It got tossed in the midst of their pile on of allegations about her alleged bad conduct and state of mind and a forensic finding that concluded that she died at her own hands.
The predictable assault on Bland has three aims. The first is to stop in its tracks the widespread call for a full bodied Justice Department probe into Bland’s death. This can only be accomplished through the second aim. That is to deconstruct her as a bad behaving, chip-on-her shoulder, unstable black woman, and not the sympathetic victim that supporters and some in the press depict her as. The other aim is to exonerate in this order: Encina, Texas Highway Patrol officials, Waller County jail officials, and the Waller County District Attorney’s office. All have been fingered as being complicit in her death either directly or through their gross negligence and desperate effort to avoid a fair and impartial probe into the cause of her death.
If enough mud can be tossed on Bland to cast doubt and suspicion about her character and motives, the hope is that the issue will quietly go away.
The pantheon of stereotypes and negative typecasting the script relies on has been time tested. It’s the shortest of short steps to think that if an innocent, such as Bland fits the caricature of the terrifying image that much of the public still harbors about young black males and increasingly females as witnessed by the edge up in assaults on them and a rash of their mysterious deaths in jail cells, then that image seems real, even more terrifying, and the consequences are just as deadly.
The flip side of this is that police, prosecutors and jail officials in Bland’s death hold the major cards. They can leak, publish, and put on display for the press and the public supposedly incontrovertible evidence to make their case that the circumstances surrounding her death are exactly as officials say it is. They are secure in the knowledge that any evidence real or circumstantial that contradicts the official version can be dismissed out of hand as pure speculation, hearsay or is driven by an anti-police agenda.
There’s one other trump card that officials can play to boost their Simon pure innocence in a death such as Bland’s. That is the bulging numbers of blacks in America’s jails and prisons seem to reinforce the wrong-headed perception that crime and violence in America invariably comes with a young, black face such as Bland’s. Martin, Brown, and Garner were roundly vilified for having run-ins with the law, or being a border line school delinquent.
In Bland’s case, she had no criminal record to wave in the press and public’s face. So they settled on her alleged emotional instability to prove her deviant behavior. It is crucial to plant this in the public’s mind since she did not die from a provable and observable police bullet or chokehold as in the case of Brown and Garner.
The clamor for the truth about whom or what killed Bland won’t go away. This insures that Texas officials will spin out more new “revelations” to the press and public about Bland’s character. The second deadly assault on Bland will continue unabated.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.