Sandra Bland has become the public face of a largely male province: #blacklivesmatter. For more than a year, that Twitter hashtag and the wider media had been focused on the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, and other men and boys. Bland's arrest on July 10, and her death in a Texas jail cell three days later, changed all that, says The Marshall Project. It elevated black women to the status of black men in protests against police brutality. Several factors figured in why this happened. The amount of footage in the Bland case helped fuel attention: the police dashboard camera, the violent arrest taped by a bystander, and the question of what might not have been caught on tape. Bland herself had an active role in the social media movement against police brutality, and her posts and videos, still on the Internet, continue to resonate.
The public has been slow to take up the cause of black women as victims of police abuse,but that seems to be changing. “There has been a slow drumbeat to say the name of black women who have been killed by the police,” says Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw of the African American Policy Forum at Columbia University. Crenshaw co-wrote the report Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women, which documents the stories of dozens of black women killed by police. The police have killed six unarmed women already in 2015, says to The Guardian, which has been maintaining a database, compared with 50 unarmed black men.