On My Mind: Thoughts from the Editor
By Sandra Williams
“Two months ago I had a nice apartment in Chicago. I had a good job. I had a son. When something happened to the Negroes in the South, I said ‘That’s their business, not mine.’ Now I know how wrong I was. The murder of my son has shown me that what happens to any of us, anywhere in the world, had better be the business of us all.
(mother if Emmett Till)
She could have been my daughter. That’s the thought that keeps circling around and around in my mind as I find myself unable to stop staring at the mug shot of Sandra Bland, released by Texas authorities after her death. Twenty-eight year old Sandra Bland, was full of life when she left the safety and security of her home and her family in Chicago to travel across the country to start a new job. A fearless, young Black, woman, with college degree in hand, who was ready to strike out on her own. Ready to take on life’s challenges. Ready to change the world. Or so she thought.
But in her mugshot, only a few days later, Sandra Bland looks lifeless. Eyes dead. Face gaunt. Whatever fearlessness and hopefulness she once had about making the world a better place– gone. I look at her face and I wonder, what in the hell happened to this young woman? And I say to myself, that could have been my daughter.
Like Sandra Bland’s mother, I too raised a strong, black daughter. Educated. Passionate. Political. Opinionated. Not an easy task in a world that seems hell bent on stripping young women of color of any hint of confidence or self-assuredness that we are able to instill in them. But my daughter, like Sandra, managed to hold on to hers, and I have always been so very proud of the way that my daughter stands up for herself and speaks her mind and calls injustice exactly what it is. Wrong.
But now, looking at Sandra Bland’s mugshot, this mother of a strong black daughter admits that she is more than a little bit nervous. More than a little bit worried.
My daughter and I were talking about the death of Eric Garner last year, an unarmed Black man that was choked to death in Staten Island, New York by police officers who were in full view of witnesses and a video camera. His death had shaken up my daughter and damaged her sense of security. It left her feeling like a target. “I could do all of the right things and it doesn’t matter,” she told me. “I can go to college, I can get a good job, I can do all of the things that you are supposed to do, but if I end up in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong cop, I’m just Black, and none of that will matter.” Unfortunately, there is more truth to her statement than I would like to admit, and it scares me.
Yes, I want my daughter to be strong. You have to be strong, actually more than strong, to succeed in a world that is predicated on your failure. But I also want my daughter to be alive. And right now, it seems that being strong and proud and Black all at the same time makes you a threat and a target.
Sandra Bland’s “crime”, the one that possibly cost her life, was that she did not know “her place” and she dared to have a voice. She is not the only Black woman that has been judged “guilty” of this crime and paid the ultimate price for it. #SayHerName, like #BlackLivesMatter, is attempting to raise awareness, and in this case bring attention to the deaths of Black women at the hands of law enforcement. A report recently released by the African American Policy Forum tells their stories. Too many strong, Black women lost. Too many daughters, like Sandra Bland, gone. Too much silence. #SayHerName, before one of our daughters is next.