A news station made a racist error. This anchor went off-script to apologize.

On July 22, 18-year-old Nia Wilson was murdered in a stabbing at a transit station in Oakland, California.

The teen had just stepped off a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train with her two sisters, one of whom was also targeted in the incident but survived. The "prison-style attack" on Wilson, who was black, may have been a racially motivated hate crime, according to investigators.

"It's nothing imaginable, seeing your child on the BART platform with a yellow tarp over her body," said Wilson's father, Ansar Muhammad. "That is an image I'll never forget for the rest of my life."


The senseless tragedy rattled the Bay Area — and then the entire country.

Even though recently paroled John Lee Cowell — a 27-year-old white man with a violent criminal history — was arrested for the murder the following day, tensions flared across the nation.

Demonstrators in Oakland filled the streets, frustrated with law enforcement's relatively sluggish response to Wilson's death (research suggests police are slower to react when victims are people of color). Angry celebrities like Kehlani, Tegan and Sara, and Anne Hathaway elevated Wilson's story through their online platforms.

"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," Hathaway wrote on Instagram. "She is not a hashtag; she was a black woman and she was murdered in cold blood by a white man."

Many photos of the 18-year-old — who'd been planning a future career in the beauty or music industries or possibly the Army — were plucked from her social media accounts and shared by outraged sympathizers.

Out of all of Wilson's photos, however, a Bay Area news station chose the absolute wrong one to use in their coverage.  

In the photo used by KTVU News, Wilson appeared to be holding a gun. She wasn't, to be clear: The item in her hand was a cellphone case shaped in the form of a gun.

But the damage had already been done.

This may seem like a non-issue to some people (particularly white folks), but it reflects a much larger systemic problem concerning media portrayals of black and brown people in the U.S.

The news media often portrays people of color as inherently more violent — even when they're the victims of crimes.

White criminals, on the other hand, seem to benefit from their skin color.

Just look at convicted rapist Brock Turner, a white man who's habitually referred to in headlines as a "Stanford swimmer" and complemented with flattering photos. Compare that to much of the coverage surrounding slain, innocent 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, whose "thug" outfit and cannabis use apparently justified his killing.

These aren't isolated lapses in judgment. They're part of a much larger news media system that portrays people of color differently than white people.

The photo KTVU used in its broadcast reinforced negative stereotypes and contributed to this problem, according to the National Association of Black Journalists.

"There's no justification for KTVU's airing of a photo of her apparently holding a fake gun cellphone case," the group's president, Sarah Glover, told Poynter. "KTVU victimized her twice by airing an image that puts her in a negative light and that also has nothing to do with her death."

Fortunately, KTVU quickly acknowledged its failure and apologized for featuring the problematic photo of Wilson.

Anchor Frank Somerville addressed the controversy head-on during a live broadcast, going off-script to express his apologies.

"There's no doubt we made a mistake," Somerville said. "It never should have happened. But we made the mistake, and we are owning up to that mistake."

He continued:  

"Nia was a just beautiful young woman. And I can only hope right now that her family and her parents are watching so that they can see me and all of us here at Channel 2 say that we are so sorry about what happened to your daughter, and we are sorry about the mistake that we made today."

Somerville, with the encouragement of the station's news director, also took to his Facebook page to address the issue.

He may not have been involved in choosing the photo, Somerville noted in a post, but that's irrelevant.

"There is no excuse for [what] we did. Repeat: No excuse!" Somerville wrote. "We NEVER should have used that picture. It was a huge mistake on our part."

You can read his whole post below:

I wanted to take a moment and apologize for a picture that KTVU showed on the air for several seconds today about the...

Posted by Frank Somerville KTVU on Monday, July 23, 2018

Even when it's done unintentionally, the media can get it wrong in big ways.

So when a news source does, it should confront the mistake and vow to do better. The more we talk about the flawed portrayals of people of color in the world around us, the more we can change the problem for the better.

Nothing can bring back Wilson. But her family deserves the world to remember her as the helpful, bright, big dreamer she was.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less
Wikiimages by Pixabay, Dr. Jacqueline Antonovich/Twitter

The 1776 Report isn't just bad, it's historically bad, in every way possible.

When journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones published her Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project for The New York Times, some backlash was inevitable. Instead of telling the story of America's creation through the eyes of the colonial architects of our system of government, Hannah-Jones retold it through the eyes of the enslaved Africans who were forced to help build the nation without reaping the benefits of democracy. Though a couple of historical inaccuracies have had to be clarified and corrected, the 1619 Project is groundbreaking, in that it helps give voice to a history that has long been overlooked and underrepresented in our education system.

The 1776 Report, in turn, is a blaring call to return to the whitewashed curriculums that silence that voice.

In September of last year, President Trump blasted the 1619 Project, which he called "toxic propaganda" and "ideological poison" that "will destroy our country." He subsequently created a commission to tell the story of America's founding the way he wanted it told—in the form of a "patriotic education" with all of the dog whistles that that phrase entails.

Mission accomplished, sort of.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.