On July 13, 2015, Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman was found dead in a Texas jail in a case ruled by local authorities as a suicide by hanging. She had been arrested days before following a traffic violation, after failing to use the turn signal when changing lanes.  Lawyers will argue in court, but the evidence is clear: the autopsy results were consistent with suicide and stories have already surfaced in the press about her previous history of depression and close encounters with the Law. End of story.

In 1981 I moved to Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina: I had gotten a job at the Physics Department of North Carolina State University. I still remember today the eerie feeling of sadness I felt when I first came to Raleigh and saw the rows of empty houses and a few black people walking with seemingly no purpose in the abandoned streets of the city: whites had fled the city and moved to new neighborhoods in the suburbs. I just could not comprehend that only twenty years ago, while the United States was placing a man on the moon, blacks were segregated in its South. There were no blacks in the city I grew up, Buenos Aires. When I later lived in Israel, the only “blacks” I saw were the Yemenite Jews: everyone seemed happy with them and crazy about their music and dances, including me. Before arriving in Raleigh, I had spent two years as a post-doc at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, a small town in New Jersey. This was an idyllic place, both for research and living. There I had my first encounters with black people, but they always were dressed in impeccable suits and were very polite and friendly, so I felt comfortable with them (I do not know if the feeling was reciprocal, given that I never wore a suit and I did not care much about how I dressed and how I looked like)

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The guy that attacked Sandra Bland – the guy that was dressed in a police uniform –was the sick person in this encounter. The uniform was just the mask that entitled him to vent his aggressiveness with impunity. He will not be subjected to a psychiatric evaluation and no one will require revealing in public everything about his private life, his mental disorders and prejudices. He fulfilled his duty: he issued a ticket for a traffic violation and subdued the violator – as he was trained for - who was not cooperative with him. The Judge that ruled a $5,000 bail bond also acted according to the Law. But Sandra did not have the $500 cash needed for her release from jail.


As for Sandra, I can only imagine how miserable and humiliated she felt when her dreams – the dreams of a young black woman - suddenly dissipated and the world collapsed on her as she was brutally attacked and overcome. And then, days in prison, isolated behind bars, in a Kafkaesque nightmare. May she rest in peace.
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