The Whistling Sheriff: Sandra Bland Grand Jury

“It wasn’t me. It was her! It was her!,” Sheriff R. Glenn Smith joked, Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 4.15.25 AMpointing at Officer L. Watts, a female, African American Officer on his force. It was individuals like Officer Watts that Sheriff Smith had referred to repeatedly in the media when arguing that there could not have been any racial component in Sandra Bland’s arrest and death because not all his staff was white.

On hard benches outside of the District Courtroom on the third floor of the Waller County Courthouse sat several Sandra Bland supporters, Officers from the Waller County Sheriff’s staff, and several members of the media. Many familiar faces sought or avoided eye contact as the same officers who had walked past those holding vigil for Sandra Bland now had to sit across from them while members of the press, who had once sweltered in the July heat, typed away on their laptops only a feet away.

When Officer Penny Goodie, of the Prairie View Police Department, emerged from the Courtroom looking dazed, she was quickly ushered down the stairs by a fellow female, African American Officer, S. Rutledge of the Waller County Sheriff’s Office, before a voice said that Sheriff R. Glenn Smith was up next.

Emerging from Judge Albert M. McCaig, Jr.’s office, the room next to the courtroom, Sheriff Smith sauntered slowly past the Sandra Bland supporters to the door of the courtroom and took a seat on the bench. After a few minutes a man poked his head out and said to the Sheriff, “You’re good to go!” At which point, overcome with good humor, Sheriff Smith turned to Officer L. Watts and Officer J. Henry and delivered his crowd-pleasing line, “It wasn’t me. It was her! It was her!” before chuckling and sauntering back past the Sandra Bland supporters and into Judge McCaig’s office once again to rejoin his Captain of Patrol, Officer Brian Cantrell, and the others gathered there.

A few minutes later, Sheriff Smith re-emerged from the Judge’s office whistling, as he had been wont to do several times in the preceding hours, and strolled up and down the hall before returning to the Judge’s office once again. It was a ritual that he would repeat several more times before the Officers seemed to tire of our social media reporting from the scene and demanded that “the public” leave at 5:00 pm; forcing everyone down the stairs and out into the quickly gathering dusk of evening, over the protests of local Waller leaders and television reporters who had never experienced such a curfew before.

The intentionality and persistence with which the Sheriff sought to flaunt what he saw as his triumph was unlike anything I had seen outside of slightly comedic scenes in television or on the stage. The exaggerated slowness of the saunter and persistent whistle was akin to a scene out of the early days of silent film, when the characters had to exaggerate their movements to get their point across without the assistance of audio. I was torn, uncertain whether he intended to be menacing or humorous; I suppose it was a little of both, for there have always been those who find amusement in seeking to intimidate others.

IMG_9454I could not help but wonder what these Officers on the bench across from me were really thinking and feeling. Certainly, I knew they were not too fond of me. I recognized Officer J. Henry from that time he walked behind Ranger and I as we sat in front of the Waller County Jail and joked to Assistant Chief Jailer L. Thibodeaux, “Got any room left in there?” (“For what?”) “For these two.” Yet, even so, putting their feelings for me aside, I found it hard to believe that they could feel proud of the behavior that their supervisor was exhibiting.

I have struggled for months to find a word to really capture the Sheriff’s particular brand of unassailable privilege that seeks to flaunt itself. The only word I have been able to quite find to describe it is hubris, but even that word seems to fall short of capturing its essence.

Or perhaps, on second thought, hubris does work. For it was that pomposity in the Greek tragedies that led the men of myth and legend to make decisions out of pride so excessive that it defied even the gods. In the Christian tradition, it was akin to the pride of Saul with his height, Samson with his strength, and Absalom with the flowing locks that were his undoing.

I have spent a good amount of time around the men and women of the Waller County Sheriff’s Office & Jail over the past five months. Enough time to have a certain fondness for some of them that makes me wonder if they feel trapped in the roles they occupy, or if they carry out their duties willingly. Enough time to have a healthy caution around others of them, whom I have watched as they have watched me; doing so long enough to know that the uneasy feeling I have in their presence never goes away. Enough time to know that even if they felt their stories were true, the Sheriff’s Office has wrapped them in so much subterfuge that it would be impossible for them to ever ring true now.

And so it happened, that we found ourselves ejected from the doors of the Waller County Courthouse by some of those same Officers, Rutledge, Watts, and Henry, to stand on the sidewalk outside of the Waller County Courthouse with a cadre of stunned television reporters who could not believe that they had really just been rudely tossed out of the building.

I could not help wondering, as I always do, why was it that the Sheriff always had his African American Officers be the ones to engage when there were people in protest or vigil.

Actually, no, that is not what I wondered. I knew the answer to that, as the well-informed reader will as well. The actual question in my mind was: how did these Officers feel about being used that way? They had to be familiar with the Sheriff’s rhetoric that he could not be racist because they were on his staff. And they had to have noticed, as we all did, that they were always the ones chosen to be on the front lines; from the time when Rutledge and other African American staff were sent into the lobby first to ask protesters to leave, all the way up to tonight, when she was once again put in that position, along with Watts and Henry, while white Officers and staff watched through the frosted glass door of Judge McCaig’s Office.

I know they seem to hate me, and they probably think I hate them; but in truth, I can’t help but love them and hurt for them and wish we could all be set free from the bondage of this patriarchal, white supremacist culture that prioritizes the comfort of white men over the lives of black women: whether it be Sandra Bland or Officer S. Rutledge.

After 4 hours of waiting in the dark, the five special prosecutors finally emerged from the darkened Courthouse and descended the stairs towards the presser. Darrell Jordan, the spokesperson for the special prosecutors approached the microphone and began, “After presenting all of the evidence, as it relates to the death of Sandra Bland, the Grand Jury did not return an indictment…”

Sheriff R. Glenn Smith watched through the glass doors from the hallway above (just as those gathered with him had watched through the frosted glass door of Judge McCaig’s Office), as we now listened to the news that neither he, nor anyone on his staff would be indicted in the death of Sandra Bland.

His victory seemed to be complete.

Yet, it would only appear that way to someone who did not know the way that stories about hubris end.

(Hint: It’s not over.)

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Pry It Loose: Sandra Bland Civil Trial

“Let me know if I need to pry it loose,” Judge David Hittner said at the December 17th status hearing for the Civil Trial brought by the family of Sandra Bland. “Pry it loose.” It must have been the third time at least that he had used that particular combination of words in his remarks that day.

One could only assume that that particular phrase kept coming to mind because the attorney for the defense kept grinning like a child who has something hidden inside the fist balled up behind their back, while pretending there is nothing there. Yet, you always know by the grin and the smear of chocolate across their chin that there is something there they do not want you to find.

That, ladies and gentlemen, appeared to be exactly the strategy of the attorney for Officer Brian Encinia and the Department of Public Safety today. And like a parent with a sneaky child, it appears the Federal Court is going to have to pry open the hand of the State of Texas before they can find out what is inside.

When grown men engage in this game of grin-grin, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, however, it is also an appeal for solidarity. People of privilege reminding one another that there is some kind of secret pact that makes them responsible to overlook the small indiscretions of certain men for the greater good of protecting mankind.

As his body-language appeals for solidarity seemed to be having no effect on the judge, it was soon evident that things did not seem to be going the way that the attorney for the defense expected. If the reddening of his face and the crossing of his arms was not clear enough, the fact that he stepped, perhaps unconsciously, up to just a couple feet from the judge’s bench made the point. It was fascinating to see that the body language that we use to express our desires does not change greatly from the cradle to the grave.

His disappointment was evident, for he had thought he had an ace up his sleeve, when he pulled out the Younger Doctrine within the first handful of sentences that he spoke. (Although, the very first statements made were by the attorney for the plaintiff, Cannon Lambert, who made clear that at this time the plaintiff, Geneva Reed-Veal disputes the cause of death as suicide until the Rangers’ report is available.) After those words, the attorney for Brian Encinia presented the Younger Doctrine (“instructs federal courts to refrain from hearing constitutional challenges to state action when federal action would be regarded as an improper intrusion on the state’s authority to enforce its laws in its own courts”); saying that if the Grand Jury in the State brought indictments the actions of the Federal Court would interfere with the Younger Doctrine.

Then the attorneys for the defense, attorneys for the plaintiff and the Judge went around in circles for quite a while.

The first circle was about the motion to dismiss. The defense wants the case dismissed. The plaintiff clearly does not. The judge demands answers from the plaintiff that they cannot answer without the evidence from the defense. The defense says they cannot hand over the evidence until the secret proceedings of the DA and Grand Jury in Waller County are finished. The judge asks when will that be? The lawyer for the defense says he has no idea (although it is pretty public knowledge that they are either finished already or about to be finished as they promised a conclusion before Christmas).

The second circle seemed to be about the defense’s argument for qualified immunity for Officer Brian Encinia. The defense sought to protect Officer Encinia from answering to discovery process with qualified immunity. The judge said, “Don’t I have the right to some discovery.” To which the defense replied, “I don’t believe so your honor.” Then there was some mention of Mitchell vs. Forsyth, a 1985 ruling that an official’s position alone does not automatically grant them immunity; but if the act did not clearly violate an established law, then they are granted qualified immunity. The question then becomes, did Officer Encinia violate an established law. Then the attorney for the plaintiff got involved explaining how Officer Encinia’s actions violated the 4th Amendment (Search and seizure) and that since no reasonable officer would take those steps, no qualified immunity applied. It was at that point that the tactics of the defense became truly interesting as he insisted on which specific action was out of line: “taking her from the car? pulling a taser? making her hit her head? Which one? In which way? Which action?”

As entertaining as his performance was, all it seemed to accomplish was to unite the majority of the courtroom in an unspoken understanding that we were watching a child hiding something behind his back while distracting his parents from getting it from him by saying, “Which hand? This hand? Which hand? This hand?” and switching the item back and forth between his hands so as to always present an empty one.

The final circular conversation that the room got to witness came from the defense attorney for Waller County. He claimed that the family was refusing to hand over access to Sandra Bland’s mental health records. The attorney for the plaintiff responded that they had no knowledge of mental health records and that they had handed over the medical health records. The attorney for the County insisted that there must be records because they saw some texts on Sandra’s phone that made it sound like she was seeing a counselor. The defense replied that they had seen the same text and had not made the conclusion. The attorney for the defense continued to imply that the attorney for the plaintiff was withholding the records; while the attorney for the plaintiff insisted they would be glad to give them clearance to obtain the records if the defense had any idea who the mystery counselor they had assumed existed from the texts was. Without a name and address, however, the plaintiff could not give clearance to records that they had no knowledge of their existence.

As the proceedings ended, it was clear that at least for today, whatever the defense for the State and County had behind their back, they were not going to show it any time soon.

Judge David Hittner made it clear, however, that he did plan to pry those fingers loose. So dates were set for the coming year for Summary Judgement, for the Ranger report, for expert witnesses, for the end of motions, for the end of discovery, and for the end of introducing new parties.

When all was said and done, it became clear that with all the games taking place and the grinning and chuckling, that fist was balled up pretty tight and it was going to take some serious effort to pry those fingers loose from the evidence of what happened to Sandra Bland.

In fact, it will take a full year, until January 23, 2017 when a jury will be assembled to examine the contents that have been pried loose.

*p.s. Lots of other things happened: promise to strictly apply new rulings Amendment to limit scope of discovery; discussion of verbal/in house conversation that bags were acceptable in cells, but still no written procedure; observation that the US Attorney had made a motion to quash but had chosen not to come to court; discussion of whether the FBI records subpoena complied with regulations for specificity of request; mention of Federal training liability; the words “fact dependent” were mentioned al lot, along with discovery, Monel, Jury selection, and summary judgement. 

Why You’ve Never Heard Me Say Sandra Bland Was Murdered

You’ve never heard me say that Sandra Bland was murdered.

Words are precious to me. I handle them with care. I work with poets who shuffle them around like puzzle pieces on a table until they find just the right fit. I was raised by a man who took the half-page permission slips that my elementary school teachers sent home with me and made me late for the bus as he pored over each word before signing. I serve a religious tradition where great debates decades long were waged over whether the word transubstantiation or consubstantiation should be used to describe the Eucharist.

So, no, you’ve never heard me say that Sandra Bland was murdered. That is something I can neither know nor prove. And to say something I can neither know nor prove detracts from the validity of what I do know and can prove.

What you will hear me say is that Sandra Bland’s life was taken.

Day by day a system of white supremacy seeks to chip away at the vitality of young women of color in this nation. Day by day, their souls must expand in order to merely survive as some piece or peace is constantly being taken.

In this journey of five months, I have not been driven and motivated by Sandra’s death, I have been driven by her life. What she was. What she could have been. What has been taken from her family. What has been taken from all of us. What can be given back to her of her legacy by keeping her name, voice, image and story alive.

A death is not enough to drive the movement that this nation needs, because if we are driven by death, we will become dependent upon it occurring.

We cannot need the blood of others. We cannot come to rely upon it being spilt.

I was at a meeting earlier this year when a wise woman, I believe it was Rev. Candy Holmes, said that we could not be dependent on the sacrifice of our young, the blood of our slain to motivate the movement. We must struggle and fight for justice without needing someone to die to herald our attention, motivate our action, or mobilize our masses. It is true, I was out in the streets for Michael, for Eric, for Tamir; but I do not want it to cost anyone else’s life for us to stay motivated to end the injustice that exists.

In this journey, I have been counting not on Sandra Bland’s death but on her life. We have a gift in the record she left us, a gift not to be squandered. I have been counting on her leadership, her voice, her wisdom, her authenticity, her weakness, her struggle, her strength. I could not afford to see her as the image that our media tried to leave to us: a little bit shattered in an orange jumpsuit. That was not her. She was not an object of pity, a vessel broken, or a corpse. She was life. Life was what was taken from us. What she offered us was not her death, what she offered was her life. Her true identity and legacy lies not in the fact that she died but in the fact that she lived, loved, suffered, triumphed, struggled, succeeded.

On many occasions, and as recently as 30 minutes ago, I have had to turn to God, turn to Scriptures, and turn to Sandra’s own words to find my way. When I do so, I do not do so fueled by an image of her in an orange prison jumpsuit. I have never allowed my eyes to more than glance at such an image. When I do so, I am fueled by an image of a perfectly imperfect woman who was passionate enough about her calling to answer it with curlers in her hair and these words: “It’s time ya’ll. It’s time.”

And these words: “I can’t do this alone, I need ya’lls help.”

And these words: “It’s time to stop saying, I knew that was going to happen, and it’s time to start doing something.”

And these words: “It’s God that’s truly opened up my eyes to the fact that there is something we can do.”

So no, you will not hear me say that Sandra Bland was murdered. The words you will hear me choose to use are that Sandra Bland’s life was taken. And if we do nothing, we are all complicit. And if we do nothing, it will happen again. Because there is a system in place in this nation that seeks to break down what is most threatening to it: a black woman who loves herself and her sisters enough to take action so that they will all live safe and free.

She lost her life in taking that action. Why? Because the action is necessary. If it was not necessary, she would still be alive today. If the racism and system of injustice that she spoke against and struggled against did not exist, she would still be alive today. It was that system that took her life, by whatever method it did so.

Nina Simone once sang:

I wish I knew how
It would feel to be free
I wish I could break
All the chains holdin’ me
I wish I could say
All the things that I should say
Say ’em loud say ’em clear
For the whole ’round world to hear

Later in an interview, when asked what freedom meant to her, Nina Simone answered: “No fear.”

What more was Sandra Bland trying to do but live free so that others might do so as well.

I still do not have an answer to the question we asked for 80 days in front of the Waller County Jail: “What Happened to Sandra Bland?” The reality is that even if the official story is the fact, it has been so steeped in falsehood that you could not blame anyone who could not recognize it as truth. From shifting stories to slander to preposterous tours of the jail cell where the “untouched” objects were constantly moving in the pictures reporters brought out – the water has become so muddy that we cannot see what is at the bottom of it all. The only thing that is clear is that there is more to the story than we have gotten.

In the midst of all that we do not know, this is what we do know:

Sandra Bland should not have been followed.

Sandra Bland should not have been pulled over.

Sandra Bland should not have been threatened with a taser.

Sandra Bland should not have been taken from her car.

Sandra Bland should not have been thrown to the ground.

Sandra Bland should not have been arrested.

Sandra Bland should never have been in the Waller County Jail.

Regardless of what it cost her, we cannot ignore the fact that in the last moments that we have sight of Sandra Bland, she lived free; by Nina Simone’s definition, she lived without fear.

Many critique her that if she had operated with the appropriate fear and deference she would still be with us today. Yet, we cannot build a just world where people can live free through fear. We have to build it by eliminating the necessity for fear, by eliminating a system that judges us differently. That will cost us all something, and white people like myself must pay our hefty portion of the bill that has come due.

There are many people in this nation who could drive through life without ever being aware that what happened to Sandra Bland was a possibility. In Sandra’s words, “It’s time.” We’ve got to let go of wherever it was that we were trying to get to in life, pull the car over and do something.

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The Creeping Fear of Waller County

There are few vehicles in the world that I am more familiar with than the Waller County Sheriff’s truck. In the 80 consecutive days that we sat in vigil for Sandra Bland outside the Waller County Jail, I lost count of how many times we saw it parked around the side of the building for the inmates in orange jumpsuits to wash by hand.

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So when I heard last week that an arsenal of guns, including a powerful machine gun, had been stolen from that same truck, I could not help but wonder how many times those inmates had been within inches of that arsenal without knowing it.

It was a sobering thought indeed to realize that even the Sheriff himself was not immune to the creeping fear of Waller County.

I had spent months sitting in Waller County before I could verbalize that feeling. The creeping fear. The understanding of your context that grows with time. Wears you down. Remarkable, then, that the Sheriff, who many credit with helping create it, actually felt it himself, for I do not doubt his words. When he said to reporters that he felt the need to carry all those guns partly because of death threats he had received after Sandra Bland, I take him partly at his word. As a woman who carries the Book, I’ve turned to the Book to deal with my own death threats; so I can accept that as a man who carries a gun, he would turn to guns to cope with his.

Since recognizing that almost tangible sensation of fear, I have tried to understand what creates or contributes to this atmosphere.

Learned Helplessness

Encyclopedia Brittanica defines learned helplessness as, “a mental state in which an organism forced to bear aversive stimuli, or stimuli that are painful or otherwise unpleasant, becomes unable or unwilling to avoid subsequent encounters with those stimuli, even if they are “escapable,” presumably because it has learned that it cannot control the situation.”

The phenomenon was originally discovered when dogs ceased to try to escape after repeatedly being shocked. Even if you turned off the shock fence, they would not try to escape because they had learned they were helpless. This was confirmed in human behavior as well.

Learned helplessness is the kind of phenomenon that might develop if a town were to terminate their Chief of Police, only to have him elected Sheriff and positioned in an office less than a mile away from the one he was forced to vacate. That is what happened to Hempstead when R. Glenn Smith was terminated by vote of the City Council, only to be elected Sheriff by Waller County and positioned in an office 2 minutes driving, or 15 minutes walking, from his original post.

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Learned helplessness might also develop if the media praised that same Sheriff for his transparency and search for accountability, when citizens knew it was anything but that. That is what happened when media praised Sheriff R. Glenn Smith for naming an independent citizen review board to “investigate” the jail after Sandra Bland’s death and to be headed up by what the press described as a Houston attorney who was “not personal friends” with the Sheriff. What the media failed to note was that the Austin St. address of Looney’s offices were actually across the street from the Waller County Court House and that he shared those offices with Judge Trey Duhon who was a personal friend of the Waller County Sheriff. Duhon and Looney were said to have cut ties to avoid any undue influence; yet, if you drive past the Waller County Court House, you will still see this sign hanging.

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Hempstead offices of Looney & Conrad across from Waller Co.Court House
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Sheriff R. Glenn Smith, DA Elton Mathis, Judge Trey Duhon

Thus, for those paying attention on the ground, it came as no surprise when Looney came forward later on to say that his review was really just casual and for the eyes of the Sheriff alone for him to do with what he wanted. Many at a distance had been fooled into thinking this was a sign of hope. Yet, it is what has proven to be a classic stalling technique to distract the press and the populace.

Another example would be when DA Elton Mathis said that Sandra Bland’s death would be investigated as a murder, then quickly followed it up with a statement a couple days later that it had been deemed a suicide. Yet, that initial statement distracted people repeatedly as it was shared again and again as the months wore on.

Perhaps the strongest illustration of how learned helplessness is maintained, however, was the arrest of the Honorable Jonathan Miller. Shortly after he had voted to confirm the naming of the road Sandra Bland was arrest on Sandra Bland Parkway, the Honorable Jonathan Miller, the youngest City Councilman on Prairie View’s City Council, was shot with a taser and arrested in his own front yard. His crime? Questioning why police were hassling his guests in his front yard. The police officers insisted they had very good reason to be questioning his friends; yet, once they had Jonathan Miller tased and on the ground, they told his friends they could disperse and that they had no problem with them. Since that time, the Honorable Jonathan Miller has not been able to be employed in his occupation as a teacher because DA Elton Mathis has neither moved forward with the case, nor dropped the charges against him. Leaving him in a cruel limbo until the timing is right in the press or, more likely, until the press goes away. The message is clear: if this can happen to a City Councilman, why could it not happen to you or your neighbor? Why even try?

Fear of Retaliation

Witnessing events like this over and over again leads to a fear of retaliation. On August 11, I arrived at the jail to discover a group of women waiting for me. Although their presence was alarming at first, they were not waiting for me for the reason you might have guessed. The first words were spoken with tears in their eyes, “Please, please be careful…” as I promised them that I would before they drove off. They were concerned because the day before the Sheriff had told me 1) to go back to the Church of Satan 2) that there would be consequences for myself, those with me, and anyone who tried to help me 3) that things would be different if I came back the next day. Therefore, their concern when I returned the next day

The fear that I had seen in their eyes was something that I would see and hear again on an almost a daily basis from many in the area of Hempstead who wanted to help or befriend me, but were terrified of the consequences for doing so. What would the consequences be? I do not know; but the terror was real and tangible. I do not have an explanation, that is their story to tell; what I have is an observation. People will say, as they have said, that this is all made up and I am just a really good writer; to which I say: a) Thank you for the compliment b) If people feel authentic fear I am not going to divulge personal details about them in order to prove a point.

Intimidation

This fear is kept relevant by small and persistent signs of intimidation. As our vigil for Sandra Bland wore away at people’s fear, the walls protecting the culture of fear were reinforced by small yet public acts of intimidation. Many people are aware of the cycle of intimidation that ran its course and sputtered out between the Sheriff’s department and the Sandra Bland supporters. By that I am referring to the “Church of Satan” – erection of barricades -cutting down of trees – reporting to the FBI – dismantling of toxic barricades – welding of permanent steel barricades – removal of prayer stones – paving of the parking lot – cycle of intimidation through which the Sheriff mysteriously carried out “maintenance” that had been delayed for years or decades in a matter of weeks in an attempt to dissuade our prayer vigil from continuing.

What most are not aware of are the men who sat in cars and watched us. The men who sat in cars and followed us. The man who sat watching me in a green car in the parking lot of Hope AME and ominously asked me, “Is this your church?” To which I could most easily reply, “It is not. It is God’s.” We can only imagine that our experience is not an isolated experience.

Insulated Social Media

Yet, while our experience of intimidation may not be different, our experience of social media does seem to be. People around the country noticed from the start that there was something peculiar about the social media world of Waller County and the way officials engaged on social media when Judge Trey Duhon tweeted about Sandra Bland from what seemed to be a professional account.Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 1.30.48 AM

Granted, many of us tweet very opinionated or strongly worded tweets on a regular basis; but what was unusual was that it was coming from an account titled @WallerInfo. For many, that was the first time they had experienced a sitting Judge tweeting information and opinions about a case and an individual.

The second way that people became aware of the insulated manner of engaging social media was through The Waller County News, a closed and private Facebook group that included the Sheriff, among over 5,000 other members. It’s been reported that the communication that went on within the group seemed to very strongly support locally elected officials and discourage critique. Many who expressed critique reported being removed from the group by the administrators.

The result was a social media environment that was insulated from the outside world, and in which local officials utilized social media to  increase the fear of the outside world.

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This reality, thus, becomes very pertinent when the topic at hand is the death of Sandra Bland. On the one side of the scales of justice is the death of a woman whom local, insular social media has portrayed as

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Just a reminder… this is the real Sandra Bland.

a disrespectful, drug-addicted, criminal who was estranged from her family and an out-of-towner to boot. On the other side, are the salaries, careers and futures of locals, along with the potential for a legal settlement that would cost the county financially. Without intervention from the Department of Justice, those who will decide whether any wrongdoing occurred to Ms. Bland will be those who have been immersed in this culture and will have to live with the repercussions or rewards of their decision.

Isolation

Being less densely populated, a rural location provides residents with more limited options socially, politically and economically intensifying all of the factors above. Relationships bear a different value, a different weight when options are fewer. Without the support of those around you, life can be very hard and very lonely; making the avoidance of rifts a high priority. In addition, if you do not like who you have elected into office, you have limited options for who can replace them. Lastly, if word spreads that you are not a friend of the community, it is easier to create financial repercussions. In light of all this, intimidation bears a different weight than it does in a more urban setting. Not perhaps a greater weight, but simply a different weight.

Implications

Bearing all of this in mind, it should be clear why the people of Hempstead, Prairie View and Waller County merit our fervent support and prayers: most particularly, perhaps, those selected to serve on the Grand Jury.