The sister of Sandra Bland, a black woman whose death in a Texas jail cell sparked national protests, says that a recently released video that Bland took is further proof that black men, women, and children are seen as threats by police.
“My sister died because a police officer saw her as a threatening black woman rather than human,” Sharon Cooper wrote in an op-ed published in USA Today earlier this week.
Bland, a 28-year-old woman who had recently moved to Texas from Illinois, was stopped for a traffic violation by then-Texas state trooper Brian Encinia on July 10, 2015. She was arrested and charged with resisting arrest and assaulting an officer. Encinia claimed Bland kicked him, but the alleged act against him was not captured on dashcam video released shortly after Bland’s death.
Three days after her arrest, Bland was found dead in a Waller County jail cell. Authorities ruled that she died by suicide, but the circumstances around her death were viewed with suspicion. The incident also happened around the same time that the Black Lives Matter movement was gaining steam in the US, and led to nationwide protests.
Then, on May 6 of this year, a local Texas news outlet reported on the existence of a previously unreleased cell phone video that Bland had recorded of her traffic stop. The video showed the officer yelling at Bland and threatening to “light [Bland] up” with a Taser.
Cooper says that in the four years since her sister’s death, her family’s fight for justice has shown her how the justice system fails black families seeking convictions in the wake of police misconduct.
“Despite America’s efforts to align itself with the notion that we are living in a post-racial society, viral videos of black women, men and children dying at the hands of police confirm that the scales of justice are imbalanced,” she writes.
Bland’s sister says ideals of freedom and justice “come at a sacrificial cost to black Americans”
While Bland’s death raised suspicion and concerns of foul play, the guards at the jail were not charged. Encinia, the state trooper, was charged with perjury and accused of lying about fearing for his safety when he pulled Bland from her car.
Bland’s family says the recently released video further shows Bland was not a threat to Encinia as she sat in her car recording the police interaction. And that has frustrated Cooper, who says that this video should have been available to her family as they pursued the case against Encinia.
Cooper recalls the difficulties her family faced as they continued to press for Encinia to be convicted of the charges. Initially, she says, she believed the justice system would support her family, but she found the opposite was true as her sister’s case moved forward and the family tried to figure out what had happened to their loved one.
“Glitchy dashcam footage, the dissemination of Sandra’s autopsy report to the public (including pictures of her lifeless body) and the intentional assassination of her character by referring to her as ‘not a model person’ left me questioning whether justice would prevail as I had believed,” she writes.
The charges against Encinia were later dropped in 2017 after he agreed to never work in law enforcement again. In 2016, the family settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $1.9 million in 2016.
But with new video of Bland’s encounter now public, Cooper says that her sister’s death is closely tied to deeper issues affecting black Americans, who continue to find themselves harmed by the very police departments tasked with protecting and serving the public. She writes:
The foundational promises of justice and freedom come at a sacrificial cost to black Americans as we demand to be seen and heard regardless of our gender, age, educational attainment and socioeconomic status. When we’re thrust into unsolicited encounters with law enforcement, it leaves us bruised, humiliated and with a loss of dignity not otherwise experienced by a majority of Americans who benefit from the liberties promised by “our” America.
“What I’ve learned from this ordeal is that those five words ‘liberty and justice for all’ aren’t as linear of a concept as I naively believed,” she adds.
Cooper notes that there have been some reforms in the wake of her sister’s death, pointing to the passage of the Sandra Bland Act, which includes new guidance for officers on how to conduct traffic stops. And she adds that while the officer wasn’t convicted, Bland’s family will continue to push forward.
“What happened in court isn’t the sole measure of justice,” Cooper says. “My sister was unafraid. Her strength gives us the power to continue to fight for her and say her name.”
Lil Nas X and Wrangler’s “Old Town Road” clothing line inspires country music fan backlash
“Old Town Road” star Lil Nas X’s latest move is into fashion, courtesy of a collaboration with Wrangler, the legacy denim and apparel brand that’s become a signature element of the Western aesthetic.
The chart-topping rapper has partnered with the company to launch a capsule clothing collection inspired by his hit song and featuring graphic T-shirts, jeans, and other denim apparel. The collaboration is essentially an extension of one of the most memorable lyrics in “Old Town Road,” which shouts out Wrangler by name: “Cowboy hat from Gucci / Wrangler on my booty.”
Wrangler describes the capsule collection, which launched May 20, as “fresh remixes of classic Wrangler styles for the kind of modern cowboy that can’t be put in a box.”
That’s a cheeky reference to “Old Town Road” itself, which sparked an intense debate over whether the song counts as country music when it debuted on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart in March, and was subsequently removed. Despite its references to established Western themes and imagery — the song’s lyrics revolve around a lone cowboy riding his horse into the sunset, after all — Billboard said the song “does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version.”
Some country music fans and industry observers agreed, arguing that “Old Town Road” qualifies more as hip-hop than country. Others criticized Billboard for feeding rigid ideas about who or what qualifies as country enough, and suggested that Lil Nas X’s race played a part in the song’s reclassification; the fact that Lil Nas X is a black teenager from Atlanta and country is a predominantly white genre did not go unnoticed.
The song quickly became the catalyst for an industry-wide discussion about the definition of country music and racially tinged gatekeeping within the genre. It also became the top song in the country, and has now been No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks straight.
Just like the song itself riled some country music fans amid an outpouring of support for Lil Nas X from his own expansive fanbase, the rapper’s collaboration with Wrangler has met with a polarized response.
The Lil Nas X capsule collection is clearly intended to celebrate and capitalize on the success of “Old Town Road.” Although many Lil Nas X fans have expressed interest in buying the collection, Wrangler is also facing criticism from some consumers, many of whom are threatening to boycott.
Much of the backlash is playing out on social media, where Wrangler has received thousands of comments from customers expressing anger and “disappointment.” (It is unclear if customers have also been contacting the company via other, less public methods; Vox has reached out to Wrangler for comment.) And much of the current conversation revolves around how Wrangler seems to be promoting inclusivity by branching out from its reputation as a brand worn by cowboys and farmers.
Two recent Instagram posts from Wrangler showcasing items from its Lil Nas X collection have received more than 1,000 comments each. While plenty of people have commented on how awesome it looks or asking questions about where to buy, several have declared that the “Old Town Road” items are “ruining the cowboy name that y’all have.”
“Wranglers are to be worn by cowboys and farmers not rappers this is very disappointing,” reads one representative Instagram comment.
Some commenters have more explicitly mentioned race — or called out others’ racism.
“This is the dumbest thing i have seen all day,” one user wrote. “Wtf @wrangler? Why is it about diversity and equality ? There jeans. Quit playin politics.”
WRANGLER JUST PARTNERED WITH LIL NAS X AND THE RACIST ARE MAD GO BUY UP ALL THE WRANGLER LIL NAS X COLLAB JEANS YOU CAN PEOPLE SUPPORT DIVERSITY pic.twitter.com/gwH2G7dULj
— tyler (@tylerujhazy) May 21, 2019
Lil Nas X, for his part, seemed mildly surprised by the response.
i mean honestly white people act like they are the only ones who are cowboys. come to my town in louisiana, we pull up to mcdonalds on horses and have rodeos every weekend.
— Blair Waldorf (@teonnyspears) May 21, 2019
These comments are in the same vein as those used by some country music fans to describe “Old Town Road” when the song made its chart debut, arguing that rappers have no place in the genre (often while neglecting to acknowledge modern country’s own hip-hop influences). Lingering over this debate is race, which many Instagram users have called out in the comments on Wrangler’s posts. Country music is perceived as an insular, predominantly white genre, while Lil Nas X is a black rapper who draws influences from black artists and musical styles.
But Wrangler’s continued support of Lil Nas X is clear; the brand has been actively responding to its detractors on social media, simply repeating on that is devoted to creating high-quality products for all of its customers.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the drama over the Lil Nas X collection has only served to draw more attention to it. Some pieces have already sold out, like a pair of shorts that say “Wrangler” on the booty, in keeping with the lyrics of “Old Town Road.” Considering that items in the collection cost between $39 for a graphic T-shirt and $129 for a pair of jeans, the outcry, at least from Wrangler’s perspective, seems to have paid off.
20 Times People Snapped Something Truly Exceptional and Shared the Pics With the World
We are living in the world that is full of surprises where every single day is a new chance to see something so unusual that it makes you doubt your own vision. A treble clef in a bag of fries, a cat whose fur went gray only on his ears, or a person with 6 fingers — these are just a few extraordinary sights that made people reach for their phones and take a pic.
Here at Bright Side we can’t wait to share our list with you of pics showing the standout things people snapped on their ordinary days.
20. Someone found a treble clef in their fries.
19. The pattern on this dog’s chest resembles a cat’s silhouette.
18. Someone saw a landscape on the bottom of their coffee mug.
17. This stone looks like a pile of mini chocolate bars.
16. This cloud looks like a shark.
15. “This stick I found looks like a burning torch, flame included!”
14. “My sweater sort of matches my pillowcase.”
13. “This truck is carrying nothing but a toy dump truck.”
12. “My empanadas have the filling stamped into them.”
11. “I randomly found the tiniest snail I’ve ever seen! (standard bobby pin for scale)”
10. “My cat has double fangs on both sides.”
9. “This tree near my school track has absorbed a fence and shows the pattern on its bark.”
8. “This is an X-ray of my hedgehog.”
7. “My 12-year-old sister made this perfect cake on her first ever try making one.”
6. “I won every single prize on this lottery ticket.”
5. “I made a giant cardboard statue of my face.”
4. “My cousin’s wedding dress from last night has its own pockets.”
3. This is one million dollars in $10 bills.
2. “A customer came in and let me take a picture of her hands that had 6 fingers on each.”
1. “My aunt’s cat’s ears grayed to here a couple years ago and haven’t changed since.”
Have you ever spotted something truly rare? Did you manage to take a picture of the unusual sight?
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