I have written about this before. In my blog on May 2nd, 2014, I argued that “There is Always a Dance.” Even in the Newtown situation I say there is a dance. I was inspired to write a poem about it, “Hollow” In December of 2014 after watching the police arrest of Eric Garner in New York and his ensuing death, I blogged about the need for a conversation about the value of life in our society. My reflections on “Amazing Grace” are here
In everything I have written to date I also imagine there is a path to renewal and wholeness. I first wrote about this in September of 2014. Confronted with a member of the audience who said “the dance isn’t over at the moment of death,” I searched for a deeper understanding of the time when one’s grief and pain is resolved and how to talk about.
Today, however, I cannot contain my personal frustration and agitation and sadness over the death of Sandra Bland. There is for me at the moment no access to grace or wholeness in the face of such an overwhelming exhibition of injustice in our land. I watch over and over again on television the video of the stop and arrest, knowing that this woman will end up dead in a few short days as I see her being taken out of the car, walking ahead of the policeman who has just threatened “to light her up.” An incident that starts with a traffic stop for changing lanes without signaling and ends in her imprisonment and then suicide.
It is my deepest belief that eventually Sandra Bland’s family will find “shalem” wholeness again in their world following the loss of their loved one. Finding justice and honoring her memory may become part of their purpose.
I don’t know though that the rest of us should be so fortunate. We need to continue to be deeply disturbed by what happened.
In this instance we are confronted in the rawest possible way with the deep structural injustice inherent in the American society around race, class and the power. Sandra Bland seemingly was a woman on the dawn of a new day in her life journey. A new job and new hope. She is immediately confronted with another “driving while black” encounter and in return for her irritation she is shortly stripped of her dignity and hope. She is in jail wrongly charged with assaulting a police officer and within a short period of time is so overcome with hopelessness that she commits suicide.
No I wasn’t there, I did not talk to her. It is what is apparent to me. It is how I see and understand the event before my eyes. I am impatient with the details, the discussions of how we citizens should behave when we are stopped by police to prevent an officer from over-reacting, or how this incident was somehow just the result of a few unfortunate mistakes or errors of judgement.
It happened because society is (was) rigged against Sandra Bland and everyone similarly colored and situated. It is an environment where we have deeply ingrained bias and stereotypes in our heads that lead people to treating “the other” differently.
We desperately need change. I do not know the answer on how to change such deeply imbedded bias and callousness. It requires though a willingness to see the world differently. I was wonderfully moved when President Obama chanted “Amazing Grace” in Charleston. And in particular his call for us to acknowledge our blind spots and see the world differently. As I witness so many in the media and on social media assign some element of blame to Sandra Bland herself, and to consider that the suicide somehow is different than if she is shot by someone else, I pray that we will one day see these views as blind and see instead the injustice so clearly that we all begin to do things differently.
I believe I am affected so deeply by this particular tragedy because it has elements that did not seem as clearly present in the many other cases. The shooting by a racist fanatic, a single police officer shooting someone in the back, an effort to “take down” a black man with a choke hold, all seem to involve “a moment.” And at times just the acts of an individual out-of-control. The death of Sandra Bland on the other hand was the result of the structural injustice in society on full display. It offers a perfect view leading in retrospect to an inevitable result in a seemingly indifferent world.
The Ballroom rather than sitting “empty, silent, almost in black and white, hallow,” is screaming out “do something.”