The plight of minority women in America is coming into sharp focus this month, following a string of mysterious deaths in police jail cells across the nation. In July, five different black women were found dead in custody:
Sandra Bland, 28, Texas,
Kindra Chapman, 18, Alabama,
Joyce Curnell, 50, South Carolina
Ralkina Jones, 37, Ohio
Raynetta Turner, 43, New York
and four days before Sandra Bland’s arrest, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, a 24-year-old Lakota mother of two infants, died in jail after police ignored her cries for medical attention. She was arrested on a simple bond violation.
That makes for six women from American minorities who have died while in custody of the police. It’s too many cases to just be dismissed as a coincidence, and it may open the floodgates as our nation begins to probe deeper into just what actually happens in our prisons.
Sandra Bland and Kindra Chapman were apparent suicides, but the evidence is questionable at best. The other four women died of direct neglect by the police, who ignored their calls for medical help. Indian Country Today reported that jail staff responded to Sarah Lee Circle Bear’s cries for help by telling her to “knock it off,” and “quit faking.”
While nobody is accusing the police of actively trying to kill these women, questions must be asked. Why is it that so many minor infractions committed by black people end in their deaths? Why does FOX News and the Republican echo machine leap to paint the victims as the aggressors? All the coverage on the FOX channel over the outcry over Sandra Bland’s death has been to purport that she could have attacked the officer with a lit cigarette, that her “arrogance” got her into this, that she somehow had “consumed the marijuana” while in prison which had something to do with her death. Black Lives Matter activists were decried by Bill O’Reilly just last night as “trying to tear America apart.”
It’s very clear that something very dark and malicious is at play here. If there was no foul play, why is the right fighting this so hard? Why is it commonplace in America for minorities to die at the hands of police officers, whether by murder or neglect? Why do their deaths not evoke the outrage that the hunting of an old lion in Zimbabwe did?
America needs answers to these questions, and quickly.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.