Talk Back

Talk Back: I Am Sandra Bland

Sandra Bland

JET wants you to Talk Back. This is one of the reader submissions that we received and opted to publish. Want to make your voice heard? Submit your commentary, TV show recap, poem, or essay HERE.  Read all the rules so you know how it works.

To Whoever Cares,

My name is Teena Wilder. I am not old, wise, special or anything close to a leader. I make mistakes, I am very fascinated with material things, and I still stress about boys, one boy in a particular.

I am a regular 19-year-old girl. I cannot say that I am a woman because I do not at all think I can live up to the meaning and strength of that word yet. I am a regular student, attending an all girls school. I am not that original, or talented. I have a little temper, I’ll admit, and I am obsessed with the idea of love. I am a normal girl in the United States and I can honestly say I love my country.

I am Black and Japanese and I love my heritage. I do not hide my roots and I will never find shame in them. I know the possibility of anyone reading this is slim and I know that I am probably writing for no reason, but I cannot stop myself from saying what needs to be said. I would say one of the luckiest things that could have happened to me was being born in the United States, but that is not true.

If I love my country why can it not love me?

Last July, Sandra Bland died in police custody. Although I hold my own beliefs on what happened, what I can say is when I see images/videos of this woman and hear her voice, I see myself. I always said that when I am arrested I will state my rights, and will not fall victim to police brutality. But she did state her rights, questioned her arrest and still became a victim.

So am I wondering, how do I win? How can I protect myself? Where do I go? Where is it safe?

I always thought intelligence will make me equal, but Sandra Bland was a beautiful intelligent human being and she was treated as if she was a danger to society. And I cannot help but wonder, why?

Just because I am African American does not mean that I am dangerous. The color of my skin does not make me the aggressor in every situation. Sandra Bland was aggravated for the same reason everyone else would be aggravated; no one wants to pay a traffic ticket. But a cop automatically took offense to the things she was saying because he saw a snappy, aggressive, Black woman. He saw a stereotype before he even said a word to her.

There is a fight in America. There is a war right here in our country and I hate it. I hate that change cannot be accepted. I hate that stereotypes, racial conflicts, and social inequality cannot find its way out of our society. When I first heard about Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and many other Black males that died at the hands of law enforcement I was angry.

But Sandra Bland hurt me because I am her and she is me.

In her arrest and subsequent death, I saw a future where intelligence cannot win, where knowing the law does not matter. I saw a future where arguments can be heard but not acknowledged. I saw a future where not even my rights can keep me safe. I saw myself die.

And yet, I am still determined to look to her as a role model. My father said when I am pulled over and the officer is white, I must shut up, show respect, make no sudden movements, and allow anything to happen as long as I am safe. When I am pulled over or approached by any officer, regardless of race, I will behave as such. But if am disrespected, I will also show offense, if am wrongly accused, I will argue my case, and if I am abused, I will fight back.

A badge does not give anyone the power of God, and although a gun can take a life, it cannot stop one. Sandra Bland still lives, and in this fight her brave words are speaking to girls like me. Girls who obsess over boys, partying and clothes. Her voice woke me up and her death opened my mouth and if I am killed, if I am arrested, if I am shot down in the middle of the street while I am surrendering, while I am yelling “I cannot breathe,” while I have something as simple as Skittles and Arizona tea in my purse, everyone will know that I am Sandra Bland. A woman that lives after death.


Teena Wilder