THE QUESTIONABLE death of Sandra Bland in a Texas jail cell - allegedly a suicide - has forced me to revisit the ugly realities I explained to my children in the aftermath of the Michael Brown case.
They are realities rooted in the complex relationships between race and class, between right and wrong, between law and justice. Because the frightening truth is that laws are applied unevenly, and justice is too often in the eye of the beholder.
Unfortunately, Sandra Bland's death has broadened the problem. It has forced us to admit that in the months since Michael Brown was shot dead by then-Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, we have too often focused on the plight of black men. It seemed like the right thing to do. After all, black men are 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police than their white counterparts.
That troubling statistic that emerged in the wake of Michael Brown's death and the nationwide protests that followed, compelled me to speak with my son about black men and police. First I told him what he already knew - that there are many officers doing a difficult job well. But then I told him what he needed to know - that if a police officer stops him, he should follow the officer's directions, and if there is a complaint to be filed, we would go to the ends of the Earth for justice. But first, he would have to survive the encounter.
Now, it seems, black men aren't the only ones losing their lives in police interactions. Black women are dying, as well. For those women, and indeed for all of us, surviving may no longer be enough.
There are those who believe that African-Americans should no longer abide by the double standard that allows white Americans to question police without consequence, while blacks risk their lives by simply asserting their rights, as Sandra Bland tried to do during that fateful car stop in Texas.
According to video from the trooper's dashcam, Bland was pulled over for failing to signal a lane change, and Trooper Brian Encinia issued her a written warning. Then he seemed to goad her into a response by saying, "You seem very irritated."
"I am," Bland said. "I really am. Because of what I've been stopped and am getting a ticket for. I've been getting out of the way. You've been speeding up, so I move over and you stop me. So, yeah, I am a little irritated. But that didn't stop you from giving me a ticket."
The trooper then asked her to put out her cigarette.
"I'm in my car," Bland said. "Why do I have to put out my cigarette?"
He then ordered her out of her car, and Bland asserted that she didn't have to exit the vehicle. The trooper tried to pull her from the car, and eventually pulled a Taser and yelled, "I will light you up!"
Bland was then taken into custody, and while the arrest took place away from the trooper's dashcam, a passerby who videotaped part of the confrontation caught audio of Bland saying the trooper banged her head into the ground. Audio of the incident also revealed that Bland repeatedly asked why she was being arrested, all to no avail.
Three days later, after being booked on a questionable charge of assaulting a police officer, a car stop that began with an illegal lane change ended in Bland's death.
Texas authorities said that she hanged herself after claiming on intake forms that she'd previously tried to take her own life.
I don't believe the official account.
But as the father of two young African-American women, I do believe this: It's time for me to have the "police talk" with my daughters.
It breaks my heart to know they aren't safe.