[News] The Martyrdom of Sandra Bland and the Struggle Against State Repression
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
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
Books, 2014). He can be reached at www.AjamuBaraka.com
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
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