Sisters Nia and Lahtifa Wilson were headed home from a family gathering Sunday night when the unthinkable happened: Police say 27-year-old paroled felon John Lee Cowell fatally stabbed 18-year-old Nia in a "prison-style attack" on an Oakland train station platform; her 26-year-old sister was injured. Police have framed the attack as random, though many have speculated over whether there was racial motivation involved. And in the aftermath of Nia's death, a national conversation has emerged around race that has reeled in some big-name celebs and brought a thoughtful post from Anne Hathaway that's generating headlines. The timeline:
- Outrage erupted and F-bombs got lobbed over Oakland news station KTVU's coverage of Wilson's death. Its report featured a photo of Wilson from her Facebook page; in it, she appears to be holding a gun. The Daily Dot notes Wilson's page featured "tens of other photos" that could have been used in place of that image. Many said the choice fueled a larger trend involving the criminalization of black victims.
- And it wasn't even a gun. As Shaun King explains in a lengthy Facebook post, it was just a cell-phone case with a gun handle, "basically a gag– and the local news showed it like it said something about Nia’s character. ... Even in death, local news media finds a way to demean us."
- It wasn't the only insult King highlighted. He wrote that a Sunday night vigil attracted thousands of people in Oakland—and white supremacists. "Never – in the entire history of this country – will you find an example of white people coming together to grieve the brutal murder of their loved one – the day after it happened – only to have their grief physically interrupted by belligerent Black folk telling them that they are worthless. It’s never happened. It never will happen."
- The Washington Post reports longtime KTVU anchor Frank Somerville did offer a mea culpa on Monday. He wasn't at work when the photo was used, he explains in a Facebook post, but as a "newsroom leader" he wanted to convey that "We NEVER should have used that picture. ... Please know that everyone here at KTVU is mortified by what happened." Read the full apology here.
- ABC News on Thursday reported the #SayHerName hashtag was trending. USA Today notes that hashtag and variations of it have been used in the past to shine a light on black men and women killed by police or while in the custody of them. Tracee Ellis Ross and Janelle Monae were among the many celebs using the hashtag in relation to Wilson. Viola Davis wrote, "To the killer...I will NOT say your name. To Nia...we will shout yours from the rooftops!!!"
- But no celebrity post is garnering as much attention and praise as that written Thursday by Anne Hathaway, who used the hashtag but wrote that Wilson "is not a hash tag; she was a black woman and she was murdered in cold blood by a white man." But it's the next part of her post that packs the most power.
- Hathaway wrote: "White people- including me, including you- must take into the marrow of our privileged bones the truth that ALL black people fear for their lives DAILY in America and have done so for GENERATIONS. White people DO NOT have equivalence for this fear of violence. Given those givens, we must ask our (white)selves- how “decent” are we really? Not in our intent, but in our actions? In our lack of action?" Read her full post here.
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