Good Morning Everybody!
As you may know, on late Sunday evening, while riding the train in Oakland, a white man targeted two young Black women on the train, without ever saying a word to them, and killed one – a beautiful young soul named Nia Wilson, an 18 year old high school student, and critically injured her sister – stabbing and slashing them both with a knife – then simply walking away.
I spent all day yesterday doing everything I could to make this story into national news and was prepared this morning to come on and talk about how we needed to work harder to find Nia’s killer, but I am glad to report that at about 6pm West Coast time, John Lee Cowell, a brutal man with a history of violence across his entire life, was arrested and charged with Nia’s murder.
I wanna comment on a few things about this case that grieve me.
Nia Wilson, above all, was a teenage girl. She was a high school senior – the exact same age of my oldest daughter. And yesterday, after just a few hours of sharing her story, I saw something truly sick starting to unfold. First, a local news station in the Bay Area shared an image of Nia holding what looked like a gun. Why did they share that image? What were they trying to convey? And, as it turns out, she wasn’t holding a gun in that image, it was a cell phone case with a gun handle. It was a basically a gag – and the local news showed it like it said something about Nia’s character. She literally posted nearly 1,000 wonderful photos of her life on Instagram and Facebook, and they chose that one.
Even in death, local news media finds a way to demean us. It’s why I believe so much in having our own outlets, our own platforms, our own morning shows, where we define our own stories and narratives without that type of ugliness.
Secondly, last night in Oakland thousands of people, including members of Nia’s own family, showed up to her outdoor vigil. Now I don’t need to explain this to our listeners, but this was a moment of pain, and grief, and support. And white supremacists from the group Proud Boys, wearing red Make American Great Again hats, literally showed up to interrupt the vigil.
Let me pause right here for a moment.
Never – in the entire history of this country – will you find an example of white people coming together to grieve the brutal murder of their loved one – the day after it happened – only to have their grief physically interrupted by belligerent Black folk telling them that they are worthless. It’s never happened. It never will happen.
How cruel, how evil, how heartless, how crass, how foul do you have to be, how rotten must you be from the inside out, how dry and dead must your soul be – to have the idea that you want to interrupt grieving people and demean them the day after their loved one was murdered?
I wanna linger here for a moment because I think it gives us a real glimpse into the sick psychology of exactly who we are dealing with and fighting against. They interrupt our grief because they don’t even really see us as fully human.
Let me close with this final thought.
This morning I saw the video of the arrest of John Lee Cowell. Police don’t draw their guns. They don’t slam him to the concrete and put their knees into his back while putting on his handcuffs. They don’t Taser him. They don’t choke him.
You’d think they were arresting a man for writing a bad check or stealing a shirt from a department store.
And so often after we see a horrible incident of police brutality against Black folk, we talk about how American police need more training and better training. I’ve said that myself, but police show us over and over and over again – with white men who are considered armed and dangerous – who’ve just brutally murdered people – that they are fully willing and able to remain calm, and cool, and collected, and methodical – whenever they feel like it.
All these years we thought they needed to be trained on how to make a peaceful arrest – and it turns out they’re great at it – even with the most vicious and violent murderers – if they’re white.
We’re not saying that the police should’ve beaten or choked or shot or maimed or Tasered this man, we’re saying that we want unarmed, non-violent Black folk to get the same treatment American police are so willing able to give dangerous white murderers.
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When we see horrific police brutality against African Americans, we often say police need more training. But here, while arresting John Lee Cowell, a violent white murderer, they show us they absolutely know how to be calm, cool, & methodical…when they want to. Hard to teach that. I've never seen a more calm arrest. You'd a thought he was caught throwing water balloons. I’m not saying they should’ve killed this man. I’m saying the hundreds of unarmed, non-violent Black folk who didn’t even commit crimes who’ve been killed by police should be alive right now.
I’ve gotta run, but this injustice hit me like a ton of bricks. I know it did the same for so many of you. Love and appreciate you all.
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Shaun King: ‘They Don’t Even See Us As Fully Human’ was originally published on blackamericaweb.com