On Sandra Bland and Texas

Cognitive dissonance: anxiety that results from simultaneously holding contradictory or otherwise incompatible attitudes, beliefs, or the like, as when one likes a person but disapproves strongly of one of his or her habits.

Source: Dictionary.com

I have cognitive dissonance when it comes to my home state. Born and raised in Texas, I love home with a fierceness that still surprises me every time I return. No, I wasn’t one of those Texans who adorned her dorm room wall with the Texas flag, but I am that Texan who refuses to eat barbecue outside the state because the rest of the nation can’t get the dish right as far as I’m concerned.

I’m the Texan who explains what a rodeo is to my Northern counterparts; takes a pair of cowboyesque boots to Venezuela to remind me of home; and makes tacos whenever I’m homesick.

There is no way around it, I experienced a blessed, multi-ethnic, suburban life in Texas.

But while I grew up in one of the nation’s most diverse counties and had a great public education that allowed me to succeed at an elite private university, I also grew up a 5 minute walk from Harris County.

Harris County’s claim to fame is sending the most people to death row in the entire United States. It was like that when I was a child, and it’s like that now.

I grew up having to drive past a jail where the inmates planted fields of corn to get to my mom’s favorite pecan place.

I grew up an hour or so commute (which is nothing to a native Houstonian) from Hempstead, where Sandra Bland’s confrontation with a police officer eventually led to her suspicious death in a jail cell.

There comes a time when a person has to speak. Even though there’s been a significant amount of change in my life, which I will be posting about soon, I’ve realized that I’ve neglected a part of my blog: talking about race.

When Sandra Bland’s death was first broadcast in the local news, I chose to not think, to not speak, to not address her death.

It’s honestly still too raw for me to truly process, but what happened to Sandra Bland scares me because it could’ve been me. Police killings of male brown bodies have been in the news more regularly now, but Black families have talked about similar brutal deaths at the hands of cops since Reconstruction.

But now we have a person who was 28 years old just like I was (I celebrated my 29th birthday last week).

We have a female just like me.

A black person just like me.

And a person living in Texas just like me.

She’s pulled over for a silly reason and after the confrontation with the cop escalates, she’s jailed.

Then she’s found dead, and it’s ruled a suicide.

My parents don’t believe it’s a suicide, and I’ve finally admitted to myself that I don’t think it was either.

This state of mine

This state of oppression and beauty,

suffocating moral and sexual conservatism but emotionally open people,

This state where I want to return

has killed many people who’ve looked like me before.

I refuse to watch Sandra Bland’s arrest video just like I refuse to watch Eric Garner’s, Tamir Rice’s, and Walter Scott’s videos. Though important evidence in our biased and deeply flawed court of law, I believe watching the events that lead up to an actual person’s death desensitizes and dehumanizes the viewer.

I’m already dehumanized enough simply for being born black and female to add to my own dehumanization.

How much longer can this go on? How much longer do we have to hear these narratives?

How much longer do I have to think if this person was white this wouldn’t have happened?

How much longer do I have to experience cognitive dissonance when reflecting on my home state and the country that I love?

When the Confederate flag came down in South Carolina—where my maternal family is from—my friend made a good point: we’ve removed the symbol, but not the system.

There’s a system in place that allows certain groups to disrespect cops and end up with a funny story to tell at the next party and other groups to disrespect cops and end up dead.

I don’t know when this system will cease, but I know that something has to occur.

We can’t keep dying like this.

We can’t keep living like this.

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