A demonstrator holds a Sandra Bland sign during a vigil. Bland died in a Texas county jail after the traffic stop for failing to use a turn signal escalated into a physical confrontation. Authorities have said Bland hanged herself, a finding her family disputes. (Photo: AP Photo/Christian K. Lee)
Just months before her death, Sandra Bland told the world she had a purpose.
"I'm here to change history," she said.
It was January 2015, six months before the 28-year-old would be found hanging in a Texas jail cell. Her bold declaration was just one of many she made in "Sandy Speaks," a series of personal videos she uploaded online for the world to see. In them, she spoke about increasing racial tensions in the U.S., as well as her own personal struggles as a black woman living in a white man's world.
These women were no guiltier but just as worthy of equal treatment as any other man, black or white.
"My white friends -- don't get upset," she said in a video posted March 30, 2015. "But I'm going to call out racism wherever I see it."
Though her death exactly one year ago was ruled a suicide, many disputed the circumstances surrounding her hanging. Nevertheless, it was a wake up call to a community already teetering on the brink.
It was a painful reminder to them that in their fight for black lives, their women could not be forgotten.
In the U.S., police violence against black women has increased. The same year Bland died, police killed a total of 10 black women. Among that list is 25-year-old India Beaty, who was shot and killed in Virginia after allegedly brandishing a weapon, which was later discovered to be a fake. Another victim, 26-year-old Deresha Armstrong, was shot and killed by an officer in Orlando after allegedly pointing a gun at him.
Already in 2016, the number of black women killed by police is even higher. According to a Washington Postdatabase that tracks fatal shootings by police in the U.S., eight women have been killed as a result of police violence this year.
These women were no guiltier but just as worthy of equal treatment as any other man, black or white. Like Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, these women were victims of a system under which black skin is often a deadly offence.
Like Bland, the names of these women have been added to a growing list of blacks brutalized or killed by police. And just like hers, their names and faces have too become fading memories in a never-ending story of racism, police brutality and death. But at a time when many around the world are reeling from last week's string of violence, it's more important than ever that these women be remembered. Their successes, failures, accomplishments, contributions and most importantly, their lives, should be memorialized.
In death, Bland has become something of a poster child for police violence against black women. Yet even as perhaps the most recognized name and face, her story is often forgotten amid the greater discussion of police brutality against blacks. But on the anniversary of her death -- and every day to come -- her name and the names of the countless other black women who have been killed should be remembered.
Sandra Bland believed she was destined to change history. In keeping her memory alive and at the forefront of discussions of racial inequality, even in death, we fulfill her legacy.
Say her name.
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