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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The murder and misportrayal of Nia Wilson


Black lives a gamble for white men

Growing up, my Haitian immigrant parents told me what they thought were the rules of my survival in this world based on their upbringings. That if I dress appropriately, came home before dark and did everything they told me, trouble would not find me. They taught me that if I played by their book, I could keep myself safe.

I know this came from a place of love and concern for my safety, but also a lack of understanding of what it means to be black in America. They didn’t grow up in a country in which they were discriminated against nor susceptible to danger for being black. They neglected to tell me the truth about myself as it relates to America because they didn’t understand that there are no rules to my survival here, my life is subject to harm just by my existence as a black woman. 

Most days, I attempt to push this reality to the back of my mind because it is a huge burden. It takes a toll on you to walk around in fear for your life, every day. However, this past Sunday I couldn’t suppress these thoughts as news broke about the brutal murder of 18-year-old, Nia Wilson.

Nia and her sister Lahtifa were waiting for the train in the MacArthur Station, in Oakland, California.  While waiting for the train, a white man suddenly stabbed them both in the neck. Lahtifa survived the stabbing, but Nia didn’t.

Nia was a daughter, a sister, a friend and beloved by her family and community, who are now suffering a loss. She had a bright future. She wanted to join the army or maybe become a paramedic, which is no surprise because she is remembered as a selfless and beautiful individual.

However, that is the not the message, Bay Area news station KTVU conveyed when they aired an image in which Nia appears to be holding a gun. The gun turned out to be a phone case. Gun or not,, the image was insensitive, disrespectful, and defaming.

KTVU’s misuse of that image of Nia is another example of the poor portrayal of people of color in the media and news. It insinuates that she was a delinquent and suggests that she deserved or caused her death. However, there are multiple examples of white individuals, who are mass murders and committed vile crimes, but are displayed in the news with images of them with their families, happy, and well presented.

Meanwhile, we, people of color, are reminded daily that we are not valued dead or alive.  No matter what my parents said, there are no rules that can help avoid scrutiny we experience as black people because  they make every effort to villainize us.

Nia’s murder exemplifies our reality. Our bodies, our lives, and our futures are a gamble at the hands of white men. Last Sunday, it was Nia’s life. The previous years are filled with a long list of others, who were taken from families, communities, from us, and reduced to hashtags and breaking news stories.

How many more mothers will have to bury their children? How many more communities will have to mourn the loss of a cherished member?

Some days I wake up and feel like I’m in the Purge or the Hunger Games, some world in which someone decides if we live or die based on our race. In that sense my parents thoughtful rules, are not useful in an unjust society in which the only rule of survival is to not have the color of my skin. I don’t blame them for their ignorance. They didn’t grow up in a country where you have to specify that black lives actually do matter, but I do. That it could be my name on those hashtags, too.

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