Two days ago, a Black teenager in Madison, Wisconsin suffered third-degree burns after she claims that four white men threw lighter fluid and a lighter at her face, MTO News has learned. Althea Bernstein, who is just 18 years old, said the assailants yelled a racial slur at her before the attack.
Althea spoke directly with a local blog – and gave her side of things.
“I was listening to some music at a stoplight and then all of a sudden I heard someone yell the N-word really loud,” she told the outlet. “I turned my head to look and somebody’s throwing lighter fluid on me. And then they threw a lighter at me, and my neck caught on fire and I tried to put it out, but I brushed it up onto my face. I got it out and then I just blasted through the red light… I just felt like I needed to getaway. So I drove through the red light and just kept driving until I got to my brother’s [home].”
Althea’s mother reportedly drove her to the hospital later that day, where the hospital staff identified the liquid on her face and neck as lighter fluid. A police incident report says the men used a spray bottle to spray the lighter fluid onto Bernstein’s face.
“At first I didn’t even believe what had happened,” Althea told the outlet. “I grew up in Madison, on the Eastside, and my dad would take me to the Farmer’s Market every weekend, on those same streets. It just felt so weird to have these really happy memories there, and then now to have this memory that sort of ruined all of the childhood memories. I never really knew someone could hate you just by looking at you. They didn’t know me. I didn’t know them. I was just driving my car and minding my own business.”
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, police are investigating the incident as a potential hate crime. MTO News reached out directly to the Madison police and police spokesman Joel DeSpain said investigators are looking at surveillance images of the street to see if the attack was captured on camera.