What Do People See, When They See Us?: Justice for Sandra Bland

Each death impacts me differently. There aren’t hierarchies in the tragedies that have been placed on Black lives, but the slap of, yet, another death, stings with varying reverberations.

The foul play surrounding Sandra Bland’s death is taking on a different haunting. Maybe, because I can’t stop thinking, “that could’ve been me.” I see myself in her. In her selfies, in her choice of earrings, in her passionate accounts of why Black Lives Matter. Again, there are no hierarchies with the countless lives ending through hatred, but they do reverberate differently within each of us.

Each time I open the door to my car, I think of Sandra. And as I transition lanes, or make a turn—remembering to signal, because God forbid I get pulled over for the same “offense” that eventually ended her life—I think of her. It’s only been a week since her death, but the weight of yet another death is heavy.

As people try to justify her scary arrest ( “she was being unruly, after-all!!”), I can’t help but wonder… what is it that people see when they see people who look like me? What makes some people immediately think we’re trouble? Whether we’re being “difficult” or praying, laughing or resisting, swimming or simply being loud… why do so many people think the most logical response is to shut us down… hurt us….terrorize us… murder us?


When I try to make sense of the hatred that individuals are projecting onto people who look like me, I feel like I’m reverting to my ten year old students, who simply don’t get it when I try to explain racism. “But why, Ms Peters?” they always ask. And regardless of the amount of times I try to make sense of it all, Ms. Peters never has the answer, but only the same question.

But why?

Artwork by Oakland-based artist, Oree Original. Download this image, and other images of people of color who have been victims of violence, at justiceforourlives.com.