Actress Anne Hathaway is using her privilege as a white woman to spotlight the apparently unprovoked slaying of Nia Wilson, the black California teenager who police say was killed by a knife-wielding white man as she stepped off a BART train in Oakland.
Hathaway, in an impassioned Instagram post on Wednesday, wrote that the killing of Wilson, 18, was “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,” wrote Hathaway.
Hathaway’s post begins to unpack what it means to be a white woman in America: “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.”
The shocking attack last week at a BART station left Wilson dead and a half-sister seriously wounded.
Still, some news coverage portrayed Wilson as a less-than innocent victim. Oakland TV station KTVU featured a photo of Wilson holding what appeared to be a gun. She was actually holding a gun-shaped phone case.
That coverage led to a joint statement by the National Association of Black Journalists, the Bay Area Black Journalists Association and the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, which said the TV station’s “mistake” violated “one of journalism’s core ethics: ‘do no harm.’”
“The use of the photo can be seen as an attempt to dismiss her humanity and silence those who view her death as a racially-motivated attack,” the groups said in the statement. “Such depictions reinforce unconscious bias, particularly against people of color, who are over-represented in stories about crime and violence.”
News reports often headline claims from police or other officials that appear unsympathetic or dismissive of black victims, HuffPost has noted before. The flawed narratives can suggest black victims are somehow to blame for their own deaths.
Hathaway’s words attempt to shift that narrative in Wilson’s killing. But still, while this is a step toward giving these voices and lives the credence they’re due, she’s merely one white woman among millions acknowledging her privilege.