Sandra Bland and Disability

When Brian Encina slammed Sandra Bland’s head into the ground, this happened:

Encinia: Get on the ground!
Bland: For a traffic signal!
Encinia: You are yanking around, when you pull away from me, you’re resisting arrest.
Bland: Don’t it make you feel real good don’t it? A female for a traffic ticket. Don’t it make you feel good Officer Encinia? You’re a real man now. You just slammed me, knocked my head into the ground. I got epilepsy, you motherfucker.
Encinia: Good. Good.
Bland: Good? Good?
Female officer: You should have thought about it before you started resisting.

Here is Sandra Bland’s booking form. The New York Times says:

The intake forms also said that Ms. Bland was taking an antiseizure medication, Keppra, for epilepsy. The drug comes with a warning label approved by the Food and Drug Administration that includes a long list of possible side effects, including depression, aggressive behavior and thoughts of suicide. It was unclear whether she had access to the drug while in jail.

A friend of mine notes that three days without one’s anti-seizure medication might well affect one’s mental state.

Here’s a really important note from the editor at “This Bridge Called Our Health” (A Trans-Inclusive, Intersectional, Sex-Positive Health & Healing Blog by & for Women and Femmes of Color of all Genders.):

I think some of the discourse emerging from these ‪#‎IfIDieInPoliceCustody ‬&‪ #‎WhatHappenedToSandraBland‬ conversations are dangerously limited. Folks are saying “Sandra Bland was mentally sound” and “Black women like her would never commit suicide”, etc. Not only are we upholding precarious and dehumanizing ‘strong black woman’ archetypes that neglect to hold Black women in the fullness and breadth that we embody, but our failure to operate within a mental health & disability justice framework by making the assertion that Sandra Bland was ‘mentallly sound’ in order to prove that she did not commit suicide is a dangerous narrative that both devalues black people who navigate mental health difficulties and trauma and also erases their/our narratives from the conversation.

Stevens, the author, continues:

The carefully calculated last moments of Sandra Bland’s life of getting pulled over for a minor traffic violation on her way to work, being brutalized by law enforcement officers, and subsequently seized and held in captivity for being a Black woman is what killed Sandra Bland. THE STATE DID THIS TO HER. Whether she committed suicide or not THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE.

Race occupies the center of this narrative. But intersectionality demands we think about gender too, and that’s happening. And then we discuss class. And perhaps region (Texas racism vs Chicago racism). And so on. Disability needs to be part of this discussion.

At the moment that Bland identified as epileptic, FWIW, the ADA kicks in. It doesn’t mean she can’t be arrested, but it does mean she has the right to reasonable accommodations. When she spoke about her mental health at intake, again, the ADA kicks in. She can be incarcerated, but not without reasonable accommodations.

Don’t erase her self-disclosed identity as a disabled person. And adding her status as a disabled person to the discussion doesn’t erase her identity as a black woman.

And none of that excuses the state.

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