Nia Wilson had recently graduated high school and was anticipating a job interview when her throat was slit while switching trains in San Francisco.
She died from the attack and her sister Lahtifa was wounded. The killer, John Lee Cowell, was arrested after a day-long manhunt, but the murder has provoked a national outpouring of grief, as well as indignation over the perceived racism that fueled the attack, and the allegedly slow response of the police department.
Actress Anne Hathaway added her voice to the collective mourning in an Instagram post on July 26, in which she calls on people to not let Wilson become a statistic.
Her larger point, however, is that white people in the US will never know the fear of violence that black people possess as they go about their daily lives. She then challenged her white followers to think about the ways in which their actions and inactions contribute to this unequal reality.
The murder of Nia Wilson- may she rest in the power and peace she was denied here- is unspeakable AND MUST NOT be met with silence. She is not a hash tag; she was a black woman and she was murdered in cold blood by a white man. 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? Peace and prayers and JUSTICE for Nia and the Wilson family xx Note: the comments for this post are closed. #blacklivesmatter #antiracist #noexcuse #sayhername #earntherighttosayhername
Hathaway has more than 12 million followers on Instagram and her post has since gone viral, generating both praise and backlash. Activists like King are holding up the post as an example of how to express racial solidarity.
The actresses’ comments are not out of character, either. She is a frequent champion human rights, according to The Guardian, and and has spoken out on a number of issues including sexual harassment, immigrant rights, gun violence, and LGBTQ rights
This disparity, Hathaway and countless scholars contend, causes immense psychological trauma and needs to be accounted for on a society-wide level.
Wilson’s life was ended far too soon, but activists are hoping that her death can galvanize broader awareness of racism, racial inequality, and white privilege.