To say that our country is very politically and racially divided is an understatement. We see racially motivated acts done here all the time whether it be by our own government separating undocumented immigrant Latino families at the border or with the constant shootings targeting Blacks and Latinos. But the recent murder of Nia Wilson, a young black woman, is stirring a lot of conversation about hate crimes specifically towards women of color.
A white man identified as John Lee Cowell was recently arrested on Monday by authorities in California for stabbing Nia to death and wounding her sister at an Oakland transit station over the weekend.
According to reports, the 18-year-old woman and her 26-year-old sister Lahtifa Wilson had boarded a BART train at Concord Station in Oakland this past Sunday night. The two girls got off at the MacArthur station, the same station where Cowell got off. It was at the station’s platform where Cowell decided to attack the girls. By the time police arrived at the scene, Nia was dead and her sister was suffering from stab wounds. Cowell had fled the scene.
“It was, in my close to 30 years of police experience, probably one of the most vicious attacks that I’ve seen,” said Carlos Rojas, Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Chief, at a news conference on Monday.
Many believe the attack was racially motivated.
“Although investigators currently have no evidence to conclude that this tragedy was racially motivated or that the suspect was affiliated with any hate groups, the fact that his victims were both young African American women stirs deep pain and palpable fear in all of us who acknowledge the reality that our country still suffers from a tragic and deeply racist history,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement.
It even inspired people to reuse the hashtag #SayHerName, a movement that started back in 2015 as a response to the death of a black woman named Sandra Bland, who died during police custody. Unlike Sandra, Nia’s death was caused by a felon on the loose, not a police officer but there’s definitely something to be said about the way WOC live’s are so easily taken away from them and not enough is done to stop or prevent it.
— Frederick Joseph (@FredTJoseph) July 23, 2018
I hate that I have to #sayhername for this reason.
I wish I could #sayhername because I discovered her magic and not because someone‘s hatred took it away.
If you remembered Heather… remember #NiaWilson.
This has to stop.
— Eunique Jones Gibson (@eunique) July 24, 2018
Earlier this week, a 27-year-old Latina woman and Trader Joe’s manager named Melyda Corado was killed during a shooting at a Trader Joe’s located in Silver Lake, California. Many believe the shooting wasn’t necessarily racially motivated but whether it was racially motivated or not, WOC are getting murdered left and right and this has become a national problem we can’t just sit back and ignore.
A report by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention found that Black and indigenous women are murdered at a rate much higher than that of any other race. Let’s keep in mind that this study probably also includes Latinas considering a large majority of us have African and indigenous roots. The study revealed that black women are killed at a rate of 4.4 per 100,000 people and indigenous women at a rate of 4.3. Meanwhile, other races—like white women for instance—are killed only at a rate of 1 or 2 per 100,000 people. Why are brown and black women being killed at such high numbers?
We’ve seen brutal police violence against women of color and we’ve seen racist men and women violently attack women of color. Just last week a video of these two incredibly racist white women attacking their two Latina neighbors went viral. The two women being attacked are Carlos Ruiz’s mother and sister who live in Commerce City, Co., a suburban neighborhood in Denver. The two white women screamed out the nastiest, racist things to the two Latinxs women—even questioning how Mexicans could afford a home in that neighborhood. It was disgusting. They even started to punch and pull Ruiz’s mother’s hair. Do you see where I’m going with this?
I am dead tired of seeing women of color losing their lives and enduring violence whether it be for misogynistic or racially-motivated reasons. I’m even more tired of seeing our society—our government—not do enough about it. How many more brown and black women have to die before we see substantial change?
They might not have been able to prove that Cowell is a white supremacist but there is no doubt in my mind that his attack against Nia and her sister was deeply racist. We talk about progress and how far we’ve supposedly come but our painful history of racism continues to repeat itself. And regardless of what his motive was, this incident is just another incident that will leave brown and black women fearing for their lives whenever they walk home.