During a panel segment on CNN Tonight, the panel got into a fierce debate while analyzing the dash cam footage that shows the arrest of Sandra Bland. The video shows the police officer and Bland arguing, with the officer threatening to “light” Bland up with a taser. This led to panelist and former NYPD detective Harry Houck claiming that is was Bland’s arrogant attitude is what led to her arrest and eventual death.
Houck, who could not even remember important facts about the arrest, serves an excellent reminder of the way that white people and law enforcement officers often hold people of color to a double standard when there is an incident of police violence or harassment.
Houck told CNN’s Don Lemon:
“An officer does have the choice to bring anyone out of the vehicle when he stops them for his own safety. The whole thing here is that she was very arrogant from the beginning, very dismissive of the officer, alright?”
It should be noted that Houck makes his arguments under the false belief that Bland had refused to show the police officer her driver’s license during the arrest. When Houck brings this point up later in the segment, it is quickly debunked. Despite the fact that false interpretation of the evidence is shown to be incorrect, he still holds to his position that the police officer was a victim of Bland’s bad attitude, which implies any aggressive action or comment made during the incident by the police officer is excusable.
CNN political contributor Marc Lamont Hill, defended Bland’s attitude:
“I refused to legitimize police violence against people by telling them that if they behave differently, maybe they won’t die. Harry said maybe you won’t end up on the ground. Yes, there are strategies we can use to survive. But the fact that we live in a world where we have to deploy strategies not to be murdered or killed or assaulted by police unlawfully is absurd.”
Hill continued, saying:
“What Harry is calling arrogance, I’m calling dignity. Black people have a right to assert their dignity in public. And just because it doesn’t cohere with what police want doesn’t mean they are being arrogant or dismissive.”
Houck dismissed the notion that there was any evidence of racial bias during the incident. What Houck and many others seem incapable of understanding, is that race is always an issue when it comes to incidents involving people of color and law enforcement officers. It is true that any person regardless of their race, gender, etc. can be met with the same fate as Bland for standing up for themselves against people who has been granted the authority to dispense violence on behalf of the state. However, a person of color, especially a woman of color, is far more likely to be the victim of a police violence than a white person is.
You can watch the panel discussion below, in full.
Featured Image Credit: Screenshot via CNN/YouTube