Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith, who oversees the jail where Sandra Bland died, insists there’s absolutely no racism in this Texas county where lynchings were once rampant.
“The average citizen goes about their life seven days a week enjoying it, everybody working together, eating in restaurants together and socializing,” he told The Washington Post in a story published Monday. “I just don’t think it exists.”
“Black lives matter to Glenn Smith,” added Smith, who likes to refer to himself in the third person.
On July 10, a police officer pulled over Bland, 28, for a minor traffic violation (not signaling a lane change). The situation escalated after the officer ordered Bland to put out her cigarette, and he then arrested her for allegedly assaulting him. The stop was captured on video
Three days later, Bland was found dead, hanged in her jail cell in Hempstead, Texas. Officials have called her death a suicide, but protesters have demanded answers about how it could have happened.
Just because restaurants are no longer segregated doesn’t mean there’s no more racism in Waller County.
In 2007, the predominantly black Hempstead City Council voted to suspend Smith, who was then Hempstead police chief, for two weeks without pay following allegations of racism against him and four other white officers.
Waller County is still one of 28 counties in the country monitored by the Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act, and Hempstead still has separate cemeteries for white and black residents. It also had a disproportionate number of lynchings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In 2007, DeWayne Charleston, then a Waller County judge, told a black funeral home to help bury an unidentified white woman. There was an outcry over his order, and activists said officials intervened to make sure the white woman wouldn’t be buried next to black people.
“This is the most racist county in the state of Texas, which is probably one of the most racist states in the country,” Charleston told The Guardian.