We are not sure yet of all the facts. Yet major news media sources declared that Sandra Bland died on July 13 by suicide while in custody of the Texas criminal justice system. The autopsy report is thought to confirm the cause of death. Yet now a third autopsy is being requested because of inconsistencies.
As a mental health advocate with a brother who is often suicidal, we need to be aware of the implications of conflating violence with mental illness. This was more than a woman who decided to end her life. This was a crime scene.
I agree with the statement of Ray(nise) Cange who said in her blog post “Why I’m Not Ready To Rule Out Suicide in the Case of Sandra Bland,”
I want us to hold multiple truths. Whether Sandra Bland committed suicide or not, we can indict a system. We must hold nuanced discussions that address the implications of state violence while removing the stigma around mental health and suicide, recognizing that state-sanctioned violence can produce suicide as a response. Black people, especially Black women, do not all possess the strength and resiliency to continue to move through a world made brutal by white supremacy.
Yet, with the facts as we have them now, I do not believe Bland died by suicide. She was murdered. Whether it was at the brutal hands of a white police officer, or self-inflicted; Bland’s death was caused by the gruesome disfigurement of justice.
The responsibility of Bland’s death is not on her, as a label of suicide would place the blame. Say it’s a suicide and case closed. However, Texas law enforcement should be held accountable. Some say it was suicide by hanging in her jail cell; I say, given the context, it was a lynching.
There is no justice when there is no peace. Suicide is not the issue. The issue here is profiling Blacks and police brutality on Black bodies. Black lives matter; that’s what justice looks like. We will only have peace when Black lives matter.