Even if you don鈥檛 read the news, you鈥檝e probably been on social media and heard the name Sandra Bland, or seen the hashtag #WhatHappenedtoSandraBland. Sandra Bland was a woman like some of you. She was in her late twenties and she was excited about her new job at the agricultural department of her old college. She was pulled over last week in Texas for failing to signal before switching lanes. She was then manhandled, taken to jail and put alone in a cell. After a few days, she was found dead, and her death has been ruled a suicide.

This matters and here鈥檚 why: It鈥檚 another incident in a string of exceedingly violent interactions between law enforcement and black women (remember the teen in McKinney, Texas tackled for running from a pool party). If you broaden the category to 鈥減olice acting inappropriately towards people of color,鈥 the list gets even longer. We鈥檙e sharing the key points you need to know about her case.


Her death has reignited the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

After the news of Sandra鈥檚 death in custody, huge numbers of people took to Twitter to express their condolences and outrage. Before her death, Sandra herself even made a video to support the #BlackLivesMatter campaign. In a keynote speech last Friday, #BlackLivesMatter cofounder Opal Tometi says the resurgence is due to 鈥渙nce again, a life cut short due to an unjust system. A system that devalues and dehumanizes black life at every corner.鈥 The BLM website is a good resource for anyone wanting to stay up to date on current black cultural issues and ongoing coverage of past incidents.

The dash cam footage of her arrest raises questions

When state trooper Brian Encinia pulled Sandra over, the dash cam on his car recorded the incident. The footage can be found here in its entirety. You can watch how the interaction escalates from a simple traffic stop to something more violent. If you can鈥檛 watch the video, these are a few highlights:

1. Bland gives her license and registration when asked.

2. She鈥檚 asked why she鈥檚 upset and tells the officer it鈥檚 because she got pulled over and is getting a ticket for such a small infraction. She鈥檚 using a tone any of us would use when we鈥檙e miffed.

3. The officer asks her to put out her cigarette, but she doesn鈥檛.

4. The officer pulls her out of the car, threatens to 鈥渓ight her up鈥 and eventually (out of the camera鈥檚 sight) pins her to the ground.

5. She鈥檚 manhandled and handcuffed while trying to record the incident on her cell phone.

She was not checked on regularly in jail.

According to CNN, the jail where Sandra was held requires a 鈥渧isual, face-to-face observation of all inmates by jailers no less than once every 60 minutes.鈥 According to the police report, on the day of her death, Sandra went two hours without seeing a guard. There is also evidence to suggest that employees of the jail did not receive mandated mental health and disability training recently.


Sandra鈥檚 medical report contradicts itself.

This video on CNN says that on one page of the report, Sandra is said to have attempted suicide before, and on another page, she checks that she鈥檚 never attempted to kill herself. Is this shoddy filing because she was scared or tired? Is this an example of something more nefarious to justify her hanging? There鈥檚 no way to know, but it鈥檚 an important inconsistency, especially since her family reports that depression seems out of her nature.

She knew her rights and you should too

The Texas Standard had director of The Texas Civil Rights Project Jim Harrington analyze the dash cam footage of the arrest to determine the legality of Sandra鈥檚 actions. When Sandra refuses to give the officer any more info other than what is on her license and registration, Harrington says she is perfectly within her rights. 鈥淪he鈥檚 right. Unfortunately, officers don鈥檛 like it when you know the law,鈥 he says. 鈥淚n this case, even if you are right, you are still in danger. And that鈥檚 what we see unfolding here.鈥 As for refusing to get out of the car, Harrington says she was also within her rights to stay put. 鈥淛ust saying, 鈥楪et out of the car,鈥 in and of itself, without an explanation, is not lawful,鈥 Harrington says. 鈥淚t鈥檚 clear to me that he鈥檚 trying to assert authority that he probably does not have under the law, and he鈥檚 escalating the situation because he is upset.鈥

So sure, maybe Bland could have sidestepped this whole situation had she complied with the officer鈥檚 (unreasonable and petty) requests, but think about it in terms of intersectionality: If you were a person of color, who has seen and possibly witnessed so many stories of people who looked just like you getting mistreated by law enforcement, would you be so eager to play nice? Make sure to fully research the rights of drivers in your state so you can prepare for whatever happens.

Here鈥檚 how you can support black women like Sandra.

Blackgirldangerous.com is another excellent resource for staying up to date on current black issues, specifically issues pertaining to black women and girls. They offer seven ways to 鈥渢urn your anger over Sandra Bland into action to support incarcerated and formerly incarcerated black women.鈥 Some of the ways you can help include consuming media that celebrates and supports black women, lessening the stigma of incarceration, donating money or items to women鈥檚 community centers and doing your part to support social justice reforms.


What are your thoughts on the Sandra Bland case? Tell us in the comments.

(Images via Facebook)