By: Trishula Oswald
Trishula is a genderfluid philosopher and digital hospitality professional. They know a lot about beer and wine and treating others with kindness.Trishula eats ice cream with their partner in the East Bay.
Nia Wilson was murdered on a Sunday.
My partner, standing near the doorway of our bedroom, looked up from their phone. “Did you hear what happened at MacArthur?”
MacArthur BART station is one stop South from our apartment. It’s a familiar station, one stop on the way downtown, toward San Francisco. Before we moved in together, MacArthur was my partner’s home station. It’s where my partner goes to see their best friend.
“A black woman was killed. She was just 18.”
I walk over to them.
I wrap my white arms around their dark body.
I breathe, shaken by the closeness of unfair violence. My partner left Mississippi, it’s cops and deep rooted racism, for sunny California. The death of Nia Wilson dismantled a dream. For the highly melanated and feminine, safety cannot be assumed anywhere in america.
I breathe, holding my black partner, now knowing that I cannot keep them safe.
Doreen St. Felix, in their New Yorker article, “The Very American Killing of Nia Wilson,” details the reality of higher murder rates among cis and trans black women in america and the woefully low rate of conviction. Husbands, strangers, lovers, cops, men both known and unknown close their hands around the throats of black women. Few of the perpetrators are charged or convicted.
These facts are not statements of passion or premeditation. As St. Felix writes, “it is a reflection of how this country values the lives of black women.”
John Cowell was apprehended. News reports try to make sense of his unprovoked hostility through his past jail time and possible mental illness. Characterizing him as a mentally unstable parolee muzzles the reason for his attack of Nia Wilson and her sister, Lahtifa. That story paints John as defective and not the intended product of our society. That story deflects our view of the true problem, the true root.
Racism and sexism are real in America. Ignoring how that reality affects the lives of black women is to give a pass to the men who fuck, kill and silence others. Too many black women fall under the weight of sexist racism’s unspoken presence. This is an ideology that supports violence without repercussion. I know, it’s simplistic. But as a white man once admitted, the simplest explanation is often the right answer.
The following day, an older white man jay-walked through the cross walk in front of my bike. I was angry at his easy ownership of the street. Maybe it was petty, but I clipped his shoulder. He didn’t walk away, though. He chased me to the following intersection and pulled me from my bike. He shook a lowered fist at me, pressed his shoulder into my arm and said quietly, “I could...I could...I could kill you.”
I understood at that moment, that this is the power men want to wield: The power to decide who lives and who dies.
The american justice system, through which the murderers of black people are lightly dismissed, arraigned but let go, is not built to be just. It is the privilege of men to respond to real or imagined threats with swift and disproportionate violence. Our society and our judicial system quietly consent.
Early in our relationship, my partner turned 30. On their birthday I asked how they felt, if they had done everything they thought they would before entering full-on adulthood.
My partner said, “I guess. I didn’t know if I’d ever make it to 30.”
They didn’t dare dream of adulthood in america.
Nia Wilson deserved to get home safely with her sisters on Sunday night.
Nia Wilson deserved to live well past her 30th birthday. Nia Wilson deserved better.
But that future doesn’t exist anymore.
The best we can give Nia Wilson is Justice.