‘There is no shortage of black people willing to die before they will show respect to a white police officer and they bait them into doing it….’ From someone in line, that comment is audible and incredible. Others turn around to see what thoughtless idiot would make such an inane and insensitive proclamation.
The conversation in line was prompted by a newspaper on display at the counter with an article about Sandra Bland.
By now, most people have heard the story of the statuesque black woman, who did not signal a right turn, was stopped by a police officer and somehow, the simple traffic stop escalated into her arrest and subsequent death.
The initial confrontation was captured on a police dashboard camera. That camera produced some questionable footage. Sandra is irritated.
In the video, viewers watch the traffic stop go bad. Sandra Bland is not pleasant when the officer approaches her. Sandra Bland does not greet the officer with pleasantries or common courtesy. Her mannerisms are somewhat aggressive and not appreciated by the officer. From the onset of the traffic stop, there is hostile bantering going on between the officer and the driver.
When the officer demands that Sandra get out of the car, she refuses. In an abhorrent act of aggression and dominance against Sandra, caught on camera, the officer threatens to ‘light her up’ with a stun gun if she does not exit that vehicle.
Sandra is heard to comment ‘Wow’ as she gets out of her car and the officer guides her out of the camera view and places the handcuffs on her wrist. Sandra is heard off camera protesting, with obscenities, that the cuffs are too tight. She and the officer are no longer visible in the video.
Three days later, Sandra Bland is reported to have hanged herself in her jail cell with a plastic garbage bag. Suspicions are flying that foul play is afoot from the police department, whom some suspect of having had a hand in her demise.
So, when a newspaper article displaying Sandra Bland’s mug shot elicits this kind of critical comment from a patron in line at the convenience store, the words seem callous at the very least.
After a devastating year of many violent clashes between blacks and policemen, after marchers chant that ‘black lives matter’ in protests all across the country, these words in this observation seemed harsh and somewhat racist. The numbers killed are are staggering
But, stop to think about this incident with objective reasoning. Imagine a rewrite of the Sandra Bland scenario.
The officer stops her car. He is checking license and insurance and comments that she seems irritated and Sandra says: “Oh no, officer. I’m just kinda lost. I recently moved into town and I think I took a wrong turn.’
The officer will tell her she did not signal her turn and she will reply, with a sweet smile on her face, ‘oops, you’re probably right. I wasn’t sure if this was my turn. Sorry, Officer. I am usually really good about traffic laws and stuff. Is my street close to here?’
With this approach, the officer could go into his Public Servant #1 demeanor or full on Andy of Mayberry mode. Forget the ticket. The officer would give Sandra directions to where she was going, add a stern reminder to obey traffic laws and close with: ‘Welcome to our city!’
Sandra goes home. The officer feels good about himself. Everything is beautiful. Each person treated the other person just like they wanted to be treated. It could happen.
Or, worst scenario, the office is not so nice. He writes Sandra a ticket anyway, even after her pleasant approach. But, because of her continued calm and gentle manner, the officer departs. Sandra snarls to herself, takes the ticket and goes home. Sandra wins when Sandra faces a police officer and she goes home.
Watch another scenario play out:
What advantage does anyone create for themselves when they are being obstinate and disagreeable to someone who has the authority to lock them up or worse, the disdain to take their life? When alone on the road with a police officer who is in the mood to have a pissing contest, how far will it go?
When it’s just you and the cop and a dashboard camera that seems to skip and distort data, better be cool and play your cards carefully.
It should now be brutally evident to the people of color in America that a violent war is being waged against them. Strategies must be developed by oppressed citizens to advance the just cause of equality, while they insure that as many warriors as possible come home alive.
For an example of strategy during war, consider a scene from the movie, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. There is a scene where one of the apes is caught in a restricted area by two humans with guns. The humans are afraid of the ape. The ape is about to be killed by the frightened humans who have the guns.
Then, the ape uses a strategy. The ape begins to act like a silly clown and the ape does tricks for the humans. The humans relax, The humans mock the ape and ridicule him, but they let him go. The ape goes home that day because the ape posed no threat to the humans.
In a later scene, that same ape who has lulled the humans into a sense of security, finds his opportunity to dispose of both humans in a deadly fashion. The ape knew how to use strategy over stupidity. His pride did not cost him his life. In that instance, the ape lived to fight another day because he knew how to handle the humans.
Words of wisdom: Never tell your problems to someone who can’t solve them, it will only make things worse. The officer on the traffic beat has been given the training to deal with people. There are some bad attitudes officers encounter and deal with from the people they stop, but that officer also expects and deserves to receive a measure of respect for his position of authority.
Sandra Bland has seen the news. Sandra was from Illinois. She knows the tension between police and people of color. She knows she has rights. Sandra needed to take a position that posed no threat for the police officer to protect her rights. Sandra deserved to go home after a simple traffic stop. Sandra and all of us have an obligation to behave in a manner that will facilitate our safe return home.
Dare anyone say that if Sandra had demonstrated herself to be as a peaceful citizen, maybe she would have gone home to tell the story of the kind officer who let her go or rant and rave about the rude pig who gave her a ticket? Regardless, Sandra would have gone home instead of being locked in a cell where the unconscionable would occur. .
So, in line, others are turning to confront the person who would make such an insensitive comment like ‘there is no shortage of black people willing to die before they will show respect for a white police officer,’ The inquiring minds expect the heavy southern accent to belong to a redneck, but find the words came from the mouth of a rotund, dark skinned woman.
She said that she taught her children to show respect for people in authority, whether they felt the respect was due or not. ‘Come home and call them a pig. Come home and cuss them out but make sure you come home.’ She said, ‘they win when you let them take away your birthday. I don’t want my sons and daughters to be martyrs for this crusade.’ Race relations in America are strained. What a perspective for a mother to teach her children to be self disciplined and use self control to diffuse a situation.
If Sandra was afraid, she could have called 911 from her cell phone and had the watch commander or another officer come on the scene. She could have told the officer I am afraid and calling 911; rolled up her windows to just a crack, locked her door and remained quiet in her vehicle until help arrived. Possibly a supervisor could have changed the outcome of this situation.
This is not to say citizens must cower under the unjust authority of the police. People of color should not allow ourselves to be baited into dangerous situations where we can be victimized by the people who are paid to protect them. Just, don’t poke the bear with obscenities and foul language.