The Punch Down
Last Sunday night, 18-year-old Nia Wilson was fatally stabbed by John Lee Cowell on a train platform at the MacArthur BART station. Nia’s sister, Letifah Wilson, was also stabbed but survived her injuries.
Immediately, the people of Oakland, California marched downtown demanding for law enforcement to act. Cowell was apprehended a day later, thanks to tips from the public.
A hashtag was created, artists drew pictures, and celebrities expressed their grief and dismay on social media. It all was another painful reminder of what it means to be a Black woman in America, and that at any time our safety can be compromised.
I live about a quarter of a mile from my neighborhood Starbucks. At least twice a week, that’s where I can be found sipping a Hibiscus Berry Lemonade and writing. Since it’s a short distance, I often walk to get a little exercise in and some fresh air.
A couple of weeks ago as I walked, a man passed me and yelled, “Stop being a f**cking nigger!!” in my face. Even though his comment made no sense, it shocked me. It scared me. I wasn’t sure what he might do next, so I walked as fast as I could away from him.
It bothered me for days; mainly because I had never been called a nigger before. Also, I realized the incident could have been violent. Nonetheless, it was because a white man didn’t like the color of my skin.
For many Black women, Nia Wilson’s senseless death reminds us of a stark reality; that our skin color is a threat. We know what it feels like to be the “only one” in classrooms and workplaces. We know the feeling of having our character misconstrued as angry or aggressive.
Although we don’t know what to call it, we do know that the stress of being a Black woman is real. We each have our stories.
There are people that question #BlackLivesMatter; it’s because our lives don’t and we’re desperately trying to let America know. Where is the constant media coverage for Nia? Why is it that a week later, her name is barely is mentioned? The lives of Black women and girls does not warrant such attention; they don’t matter.
So, we manage. Just like we always do. Oftentimes, we become reclusive or hardened by the constant rejection of our humanity. I refuse to let ignorance stop me from enjoying life, including a quarter mile walk to Starbucks. There are more looks over my shoulder. I deserve better. We all do. Nia certainly did.