[News] The Martyrdom of Sandra Bland and the Struggle Against State Repression

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jul 22 10:25:59 EDT 2015

July 22, 2015

  The Martyrdom of Sandra Bland and the Struggle Against State

by Ajamu Baraka <http://www.counterpunch.org/author/ajamu-baraka/>


During the struggle in South Africa black, activists who were captured 
by the state had a strange habit of jumping to their deaths from the 
windows of jails and court houses whenever the authorities would turn 
their backs. In the U.S. the method of suicide black prisoners appear to 
choose is death by hanging, that is when they are unable to pull a gun 
from an officer and shoot themselves in the chest while handcuffed 
behind their backs.

In Waller County, Texas, Sandra Bland, a young black woman from 
Illinois, an activist with Black Lives Matter, who was, according to 
friends and family, excited about her new job in Texas is stopped for a 
minor traffic, beaten, jailed and found dead two days later in her cell. 
Her death labeled a suicide by the Waller County Sheriff Glen Smith.

Because Sandra Bland was an activist who advised others about their 
rights and the proper way to handle a police encounter, no one is 
accepting the official explanation that she took her own life.

What does seem clear is that Sandra was a woman who understood her 
rights and was more than prepared to defend her dignity. However, for a 
black person in the U.S. defending one’s dignity in an encounter with 
the police is a crime that that can lead to a death sentence, or in the 
parlance of human rights, an extra-judicial execution by state agents.

While many are calling for something called justice for Sandra Bland, we 
would be doing Sandra and all those who have had their lives taken by 
the agents of repression a disservice if we didn’t place this case in 
its proper political and historical context.

A psycho-analytic analysis of the dynamics involved with Blands’ gender 
and blackness could easily conclude that Bland was perceived as an 
existential threat to the racist male cops who pulled her out of car. 
Being a conscious, “defiant” black woman she probably disrupted their 
psychological order and meaning of themselves by her presence and 
willingness to defend her dignity.

However, as interesting as the individualized analysis and expressions 
of the psychopathology of white supremacy might be, the murder of Sandra 
Bland has to be contextualized politically as part of the intensifying 
war being waged on black communities and peoples’ across the country.

And because the state is waging war against us and will be targeting our 
organizations, as an activist, organizer and popular educator, Sandra’s 
murder must be seen a political murder and receive sustain focus as such.

Coming right before the Black Lives Matter Movement gathering in 
Cleveland, Sandra’s murder dramatically drives home the ever present 
dangers of not just being black in a culture of normalize 
anti-blackness, but the vulnerabilities associated with being a black 
activist and especially a black woman activist.

Historically the tyranny of white power has always had its most 
dehumanized expressions in relationship to black women. The unrestrained 
and unlimited power of white supremacist domination converged on the 
captive bodies of black women during slavery and has symbolically and 
literally continued during the post-enslavement period of 
capitalist/colonialist subordination of black people in the U.S.

However, from Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Claudia Jones, Fannie Lou 
Hammer through to Assata Shukur, Elaine Brown, Jaribu Hill and countless 
others, revolutionary black women held-up the sky and provided the 
vision of liberation over the ages.

When the South African government began to target black women activists, 
the popular response was that now the racist government had “struck a rock.”

This week, under the leadership of black woman activists, much of the 
resistance movement to the escalating violence of the state will gather 
in Cleveland to engage in reflection and planning. Sandra Bland will be 
on the minds of those activists as well as Malissa Williams who found 
herself at the receiving end of 137 bullets fired by members of the 
Cleveland police department that ripped apart the bodies of her and her 
companion Timothy Russell. And the activists will certainly highlight 
the case of 12 year old Tamir Rice who was shot point blank two seconds 
after police arrived on the scene where he had been playing with his toy 
gun in a park near his home.

Yet, the assassination of Sandra must be seen as a blow against the 
movement. That is why the BLM must struggle to develop absolute clarity 
related to the political, economic, social and military context that 
it/we face.

The struggle in the U.S. must be placed in an anti-colonial context or 
we will find ourselves begging for the colonial state to violate the 
logic of its existence by pretending that it will end something called 
police brutality and state killings. The settler-state is serious about 
protecting white capitalist/colonialist power while we are still trapped 
in the language of liberal reformism demanding “justice” and 
accountability. Those demands are fine as transitional demands if we 
understand that those demands are just that – transitional. Authentic 
justice and liberation will only come when there is authentic 
de-colonization and revolutionary power in the hands of self-determinate 
peoples’ and oppressed classes and social groups.

The martyrdom of Sandra Bland and all that came before her and who will 
follow – and there will be more – demands this level of clarity. We did 
not ask for this war. But we understand history and our responsibilities 
to our history of resistance and our radical vision that we can be more 
than we are today. Our enemies want us to think that they are invincible 
but we know their secrets and know that they can be defeated. All we 
have to do is to be willing to fight.

/*Ajamu Baraka* is a human rights activist, organizer and geo-political 
analyst. Baraka is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy 
Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. and editor and contributing columnist 
for the Black Agenda Report. He is a contributor to “Killing Trayvons: 
An Anthology of American Violence 
<http://store.counterpunch.org/product/killing-trayvons/>” (Counterpunch 
Books, 2014). He can be reached at www.AjamuBaraka.com 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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