Hashtags Aren’t Going To Cut It, Say her name: Nia Wilson

By Tasnin Khan

Photo Credit: @byy.ana

I remember the days when I didn’t wake up scared or in need to mentally prepare myself before reading headlines first thing in the morning. Those days definitely feel way behind us at this given moment, and I’m trying my best to hold it together.

Last week, another beautiful young soul by the name of Nia was taken too soon at the hands of a senseless, dangerous person. Although I didn’t know her personally, her death really took its toll and had me tossing and turning like I was trying to wake up from a horrible nightmare afterward. While there is no evidence that her murder was racially-motivated, it doesn’t change the fact that across the country hateful and divisive people more than ever are gaining the comfort level and platform to exercise their contempt for people who are different than them. It is a real and legitimate fear for people of color or from groups that are marginalized to pray that they make it outside of their home and back in one piece and without being the target for hate or violence now more than ever.

It breaks my heart that Nia’s life was taken so soon because at 18 years old, she had her entire life to look forward to. This could have happened to any of us; it could have been my friend, or cousin, or me. Nia’s older sister Lahtifa was also attacked, but survived with her injuries; however, the damage that this man cost and the pain he inflicted on her and her family are forever. And for the rest of her older sister’s life, she will have to recover from watching her sister suffer in her last moments at the hands of a dangerous man who took a beautiful life so quickly and without any provocation. She stated that she felt that she failed to protect her baby sister- but at what degree or extent can you really go to “be careful?” Why do we now live in a world where you can’t even go about your day and wait to transfer at a train after a family function without anticipating something so wildly inhumane to happen with no signs or ways to defend yourself?

I’ve always felt particularly blessed to be from New York, a place of so much diversity because it has felt like a cushion on some level and protection from racially-motivated or hate crimes, but we no longer live in a time where that is really even something to be counted on. The feeling of watching over your back or not knowing if you can trust people has definitely seeped into daily life. There are real anxieties that come with being in places with many unknown people or in unfamiliar places when there are so many crazy things happening what seems like every week.

Overall, I am just tired of seeing just hashtags to acknowledge senseless, horrible acts and representing a person’s entire life. Nia Wilson was a real-life person. She was a sister, and a daughter, and a person deeply loved by her family, an inspired young woman who wanted to join the army, who had big dreams for her future, and someone described as having such a big heart. I am tired of horrible things happening and just remembering them for a hot second before then going back to our regularly scheduled programming until a new disgusting act of hate becomes a new headline. When will we be able to stop focusing on our differences or sweating the small things and realize that our lives are valuable and the way that we are all deeply connected as human beings is far greater and more beautiful? This is not normal, or something that we can become complacent with accepting.

If anything good has come after this, it is the beauty in people who do use their platforms and their genuine empathy to speak up and stand up. Many celebrities have used their platform to do this, and people from Oakland, California have stood up to fight for true justice for Nia so that her death does not go overlooked or without the attention and proper investigation that she and her family deserve. Anne Hathaway took to Instagram to share her feelings on Nia:

“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”

Although she is no longer here, the best thing that we can do is to not choose fear over hope. I refuse to let the people who are the root cause of these violent crimes and who come from an empty place in their heart of fear, loneliness, and hate to win and allow me to stop choosing the courage to live my life from a place of love and courage. It isn’t easy by any means, but I think that this gives us even more of a reminder to spread love and hold the people dear to us closer and tighter; I know those are the things I will look towards to recenter me when I feel particularly lost and off balance with today’s realities.

 Let us know how you feel in the comments below! 

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