Larry Wilmore, who replaced the Colbert Report with The Nightly Show, was the first to examine the transcript from the police video of Sandra Bland. Wilmore usually is the source of the African American take on current events and issues. He began a recent episode questioning how a simple traffic violation could result in the alleged suicide of an upbeat woman driving to begin a new life and a new job. He parses the dash cam video recording the dialogue between a Texas policeman and the motorist. With each comment, the traffic cop seems to escalate the situation after commenting that Ms. Bland seemed irritated. His comments added fuel to the fire of her indignation. Even after the arrest and calling for backup, he contends that he tried to defuse the situation, but things got out of hand.
Obviously the Texas policeman was insensitive to how he caused Ms. Bland to become increasingly angry. He asks her to put out a cigarette, a request that was inappropriate because she was in her own car. He gets so angry that he almost drags her out of her car. He eventually restrains her paying no attention to the fact that she tells him that she is epileptic.
Huffington Post publishes the dialogue word for word, but what is glaringly overlooked is the first observation that Ms. Bland makes about why she is irritated:
“I feel like it’s crap what I’m getting a ticket for. I was getting out of
your way. You were speeding up, tailing me, so I move over and you stop me.”
The video shows how State Trooper Brian Encinia made a U-turn to follow Ms. Bland The reason for the ticket was that she was changing lanes without signalling. The trooper paid no attention to the fact that she was getting out of his way.
This sounds like entrapment here. The policeman created a situation that allowed for him to stop her.
What was in his mind? Michael Cohen in The Boston Globe (see: https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2015/07/23/sandra-bland-didn-anything-wrong/bk97Pz3qv1DINRZwa5sk4K/story.html ) writes that the trooper could not tolerate his authority being questioned. She actually wanted to know why she had to put out her cigarette, which Larry Wilmore says was lit to calm her nerves. Clearly his authority needs better training to read the situation and to understand himself and others better.
Even this writer, quite some time ago, a white middle-class grandmother experienced a similar irate policeman quietly driving along in Newton MA. I didn’t challenge him, because I knew I could go to court and question his authority. I actually called the police department to complain and was given a rather understanding ombudsman. But that was in a Boston suburb, not in a county whose reputation is now at stake for appearing to be racist.
There is even another parallel, and this stretches way back to the Vietnam war, where Americans were once called “The Ugly American,” for thinking every Vietnam was a Vietcong, the deadly enemy. In other words these Asians were all considered to be “the other,” someone unlike the American protector, and someone that protector could not understand.
The situation is the same with the growing number of African Americans killed at the hands of the police who are supposed to be their protectors, but instead cannot understand folks of a different background. Jim Bueerman, president of the Police Foundation, tells the Boston Globe that Encina did not clearly explain his actions and lost his composure threatening to “light up” Ms. Bland because he wants her to be submissive. Bueerman feels that Encina could not be perceived “as being weak.” The Macho Ugly American makes an enemy on American soil, or at least treats an African American as an enemy.
Citizen journalism may be the hope here by exposing these random acts of violence with a simple cell phone. Ms. Bland, who was forced to put down her own recording device, thanks the citizen bystander who filmed the incident.
We’d like to thank that anonymous Good Samaritan as well.