Dorothy Bland might be forgiven for embellishing the details of a recent run-in between her and the Corinth, Texas, police if she had a different job title. But as dean of the journalism school at the University of North Texas, she should have a tireless dedication to getting the facts in a news story and only the facts — and relaying them faithfully to readers.
Sadly, Bland failed on both counts. Early last Sunday she was out for a brisk walk in her upscale neighborhood when she was stopped — she wrote in the Dallas Morning News — by “flashing lights and sirens.” Her crime, according to her version of events? “Walking while black.”
“Attempting to fly while black” seems like a more apt description, judging from this video, which shows her flapping her arms up and down for some reason.
“Although I am not related to Sandra Bland,” she goes on to editorialize, “I thought about her, Freddie Gray and the dozens of others who have died while in police custody. For safety’s sake, I posted the photo of the officers on Facebook, and within hours, more than 100 Facebook friends spread the news from New York to California.”
She quotes one of her former students as reacting to her Facebook post by commenting, “You are now in the company of Henry Louis Gates.” I couldn’t agree more. Gates, like Bland, made a federal case over a legitimate stop by Cambridge, Mass., police when a patrol car came upon him attempting to break into his own house because he had forgotten the key.
What really happened in Dorothy Bland’s case? Steven Ahle of Conservative Firing Line writes:
[B]acked up by the dash cam video recorded from the patrol car … Corinth Police Chief Debra Walthall [explained that] the patrolmen had seen Bland running earlier but never considered stopping her until she was nearly run over by a truck as she was running in the middle of the street with ear buds on that prevented her from hearing the traffic.
The driver of the truck motioned to the policemen, who then stopped Bland…………..without sirens blaring. When she asked why she was stopped, the policemen told her about her close call and suggested that she run on the sidewalk or at least facing traffic, where she could see oncoming traffic. They did ask her for identification as running in the middle of the street is a crime and they normally ask to see ID in those cases even when they are issuing a warning or as in this case, suggesting a safer way to run.
Bland can cry all the crocodile tears she wants and complain that she was persecuted. But in the end, the police were looking out for her welfare. Maybe next time she won’t be so lucky.