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Ava Duvernay: When They See Us – A Powerful Series About The Central Park 5.


Ava Duvernay: When They See Us – A Powerful Series About The Central Park 5.

Ava Duvernay: When They See Us – A Powerful Series About The Central Park 5.

And why telling the story about the Central Park 5 matters today, after exactly 30 years.

Left to right: Kharey Wise, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Yusef Salaam

I waited nearly my whole life to see 5 innocent men be exonerated from a crime they did not commit. Yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of the incident that changed their lives forever. In 1989, 5 young men were wrongfully arrested and charged with raping a woman, who was jogging in Central Park. The teens plead guilty after hours of interrogation. They were suffering from exhaustion, fear of being arrested, and scared for their lives. They were coerced into taking a plea for a lesser sentence, even though there was no evidence against them. Their lack of knowledge of the law was taken advantage of. None of their parents were present. They were all youth of color.

Why does this matter? Why tell this story today? These youth were not released from prison until 2014, after pleading guilty to a crime they did not commit. The then real estate tycoon, Donald Trump, even put out an ad in favor of the death penalty for these young men back in 1989. Larry King interviewed him immediately following that ad, and the takeaway from that interview was that Trump hated these boys, and believed hate is what was needed to get something done. Larry King/Trump interview 1989.

This is what happens when money talks, and you have it to spare.

This week Netflix released the trailer for the series When They See Us, and I was left in awe of the actor portrayals. Those of us who grew up following this story are left reopening the wound that was created when these boys were interrogated for hours without seeing their parents, eventually found guilty, and sentenced without real evidence. They were constantly told to plead guilty and it would all be over, and they could go home.

“Why they doin’ us like this?”
“What other way they got to do us?”

This is a racially charged case, you can’t get away from that, or explain it away. Black and brown men were targeted in this case. The reason this is so important, besides it being the 30th anniversary of the incident, is that black and brown men and women are still being targeted, while those that don’t look like us benefit from white privilege. Imagine the invisible weight carried by those of us who do not benefit from white privilege. Dear White People, we are not asking you to feel guilty about your skin color. All we ask is that when you see us, you recognize that we are treated differently – STILL – simply because of ours, and that you act accordingly.

Don’t believe white privilege exists? Guess who is president of the United States right now? Can you gather the relevance to this series now? Are you picking up what we’re putting down? If you still don’t believe us, I give you the hashtag #mywhiteprivilege: a Twitter story.

Please send me a time this happened to someone of color and I will delete this Tweet from the article:

Two words: Muslim Ban…

3 words: Killed for less…

When you’re killed for wearing one, but someone else gets to put one on, mid-arrest…

If you’re white and have never experienced white privilege, congratulations, someone is being fair and treating you like they treat everyone else, and that is all we want as people of color. To be treated like everyone else, and given the same access. Equity. But since we don’t, things like Diversity Quotas have to be put in place to ensure we have the same opportunities as everyone else.

That part went over this person’s head…

“In the United States and Canada, redlining is the systematic denial of various services to residents of specific, often racially associated, neighborhoods or communities, either directly or through the selective raising of prices.” (Source: Wikipedia). Another history lesson missed by people is that access to jobs, better living, and even home ownership was systemically denied to people of color, and we still endure the effects of this today.

It is systemically more difficult for a person of color to achieve what rich white people can, easily. This is why benefits like medicaid, welfare, and WIC are put in place, to level the playing field. Here is an image that demonstrates what we mean by equity:

Source: Interaction Institute for Social Change.

We are not trying to take away what you have, we simply want the same access to it.

So you mean to tell me, I just read an entire article to get to a trailer about something that happened in 1989? Yes! Because it is important to note it’s relevance to today. We send love to the 5 men and their families at this time, and hope this series brings them more closure.

Tired of hearing about racially charged issues? Not sure why “everything” has to be about race? We as people of color were wondering the same. We are grateful to Ava Duvernay, Oprah Winfrey, and Robert Di Nero, for bringing this story a platform. May it continue the very important work of bringing justice, equality, and peace to us all.

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for, the explosive and powerful trailer for When They See Us:

Like what you read? Didn’t like what you read? Let’s hold the real conversations in the comment section below.

Article by Lorisse Bentiné.

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