The Black Issue

Nia Wilson died when her throat was slashed in an unprovoked attack on a BART train a few weeks ago; the day I turned 60. I determined I needed to work until 65 to ensure I am fully funded to the age of 96. I was in a bubble. I forgot Black women experience the highest rates of homicide of any racial group in the United States; more black women are killed in America than any other race. I ride that train. I’ve transferred trains at that station. I could have been the target.

My fear with aging is money; fear of murder is not in the list of top things. However, this latest incident reminded me I suffer constantly with the subtle stress of vigilance in public spaces. As an African American, this is a new level of ridiculous crap. This week, someone called the Santa Monica police and said a large black man was entering a residence that did not live there. Basically, police held the actor Ving Rhames at gunpoint for entering his own home. 

“I get up, I open the door, and there’s a red dot pointed at my face from a 9-millimeter, and they say, ‘Put up your hands.’ Literally,” he said. “Now, I just walked and opened up the door.”

The police, he said, told him to open the door with one hand and exit the house. One officer kept a pistol trained on him as he walked outside, where Rhames found another officer, the captain of police and a police dog. 

Suddenly, one of the officers recognized Rhames — not because he was an actor but because the two men’s high school-age sons played against each other in basketball. 

The situation de-escalated, but Rhames naturally wanted to know why they came to his house in the first place.

“He said to me, ‘A woman called 911 [and] said a large black man was breaking into the house. 

I had lunch with a couple of friends yesterday and I commented how this is all crazy. One commented, “No, it’s not crazy, let’s call it what is racism.” She is not wrong. To think this is crazy, is crazy, there is a cause and an effect. The cause is racism. I live in Oakland, where less than two miles from my home, there was the high profile case of a Stanford professor calling the police on a family barbecuing at the lake. She was afraid. Someone called the police on a black man who they feared was doing criminal activity; it was a firefighter doing a routine inspection. Two weeks ago, across the bridge in San Francisco, the police were called on a black man opening his own business. It’s exhausting enough, but, I deal with the reactions also I hear comments when I am in public spaces. I read things. I feel like I’m crying wolf, that the public at large does not believe there is inequity and actually rationalize behaviors.

It’s actually comical how Black people and the media are now making such a big deal about calling police. I’m pretty sure all races get the police called on them at one time or another. I’d be embarrassed if the media was constantly trying to protect my race. I’d feel like my race was special needs that has to be coddled and protected.

People who watch TV news are told by the anchors that in this day and age, they need to be vigilant and if they see any suspicious activity, they should call the police. Well, call or not — what should we do?

Understand, every time an incident like this occurs, as an African American woman, I process how I would handle the situation because for me, there is a reasonable probability of occurrence as I have described in previous posts. Why do people fear me when I’m more likely to be murdered than they are; when I’m more likely to be a victim of a violent crime. Benjamin Franklin said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” So, thank you Anne Hathaway for your outrage.  I have the hope of making it to a fearless 96.

annehathaway 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


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