When They See Us is a biographical NetFlix movie directed by Ava Duvernay and was released a little over a week a go. For those who do not know about the movie, it is about 5 young black men, otherwise known as the Central Park 5, who were wrongfully accused for raping a white woman an investment banker, Trisha Meili. The young men were Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Kharey (Korey) Wise.
Aggressive and illegal tactics were used to forcibly get the young black men to confess to the crime by the Head of the Sex Crimes Unit at the time, Linda Fairstein, and detectives. The young boys ranged in ages 14 to 16 years old. This is a very brief summary of what happened to these young boys and their families in 1989, and really is touching the surface of the horrific nature in how they were treated and how their rights were denied. No evidence, DNA or otherwise, connected the young men to the crime! I would say, in my opinion, the real criminals in this case were the NYC police department (sorry, do not know the precinct), detectives, the prosecutors, the judge assigned to the case, and anyone else who was involved and turned a blind eye to this situation.
Eventually, the real rapist, Matias Reyes (known as the 6th perpetrator by prosecutors, and who was the only one who had DNA evidence linked to the crime scene), was caught after assaulting another victim about a month later after the Central Park crime, but he did not confess until about a decade later….by then the young men served 7 to 12 years in prison for a crime they did not commit. Further, Reyes was not convicted of the rape of Ms. Meili because the confession came after the statute of limitations, which is unfair, unjust, and another tragedy. As I see it, there are 6 victims in all this, Ms. Meili and the 5 young black men.
I saw the movie for the first time this past weekend. I honestly did not want to watch the movie as I am a sensitive person and have an issue viewing movies/shows where people of color like myself are being abused, beaten down, and treated inhumane.
I remember when the incident happened in 1989. I was a senior in high school but did not know all of the details of this case. To be honest, being a young adult seeing Rodney King being beaten and rights violated by the police in 1991, what was done to these young black men in 1989 did not at all surprise me.
Watching the movie broke me. It was a 4 part movie first going into the crime itself, then how the boys were tracked down and coerced to answering questions about the crime and confessing, most WITHOUT their parents being present.
I feel all the men were wronged in this situation, but one guy who I felt was wronged at the highest extent was Korey Wise. I say this not to make less what the other 4 experienced because how they were all treated at the police department ie, not being able to eat or drink, not getting breaks, not being able to speak to their parents….made me feel that this could be my sons in this situation.
But with Korey…..first off, the actor who played Korey, Jharrel Jerome, did an excellent job. I saw a little snippet of the original interview the prosecution had done with Korey in 1989. I could tell that Korey was special needs. He did not understand the questions being asked him and I do not think he really understood the future impact and implications of what he was forced to say. Plus he was struggling in expressing himself. I was not convinced that he committed this crime!
Korey is hearing disabled, was having problems learning in school, could not read, and was being bullied, hence the reason for him dropping out of school. I sense the detectives picked up on the fact that Korey was special needs, and it helped the detectives that he was 16 years old and did not need a parent present for questioning. Korey was there not because he was on the list of boys who were in Central Park that night, but because he was going to support his friend who was on the list, Yusuf Salaam. After the detectives physically assaulted Korey and got him to confess to the crimes, he was tried as an adult, was sentenced more time than the other young men, and had to serve his time at Rikers Island (from which he later transferred to another correctional facility).
The other 3 parts of the movie go into the boys lives after being sentenced. Four of the young men served time in juvenile detention centers before being transferred to adult prisons. But Korey dealt with a lot to put it lightly….being abused and assaulted as a young teenage boy having to live in a prison population of life long criminals! Very heart breaking. I was crying and very upset in watching Part 4 detailing Korey’s life after his sentencing.
My other feeling was that the prosecutor and detectives had a profile as to who committed this crime. There were a lot of rapes that took place prior to the Central Park incident, many committed by Mattias Reyes, which he was not in custody when the 5 boys were brought in for the Central Park rape. It did not help that a group of black and Latino boys were in the Park having fun that night. Some were committing petty crimes like mugging and harrassing passerbys, but no rape. While watching the movie, I felt it could have been any black boy who was interrogated that day in the precinct. If they could get only one to confess, he would have been the perpetrator with a case. That day, the detectives got 5 who fit the profile. No one had a chance for justice….if a boy fit the profile, black, young, and in the Park that night, he was going to get charged.
The detectives also lied to the boys and the parents! Telling them the boys would go home if they confessed to the crime and signed statements to confessing! I was very angry because only one parent knew her rights and refused her son to confess or sign anything. Most people do not know their rights so the parents were not at fault. The detectives and prosecution took advantage of the situation. A very teachable moment…..
I do not know where to begin. How do we heal in a society that is still ill and sick? Racism is a sickness. Not accepting people for who they are and not giving them a fair chance has been going on for decades.
Trayvon Martin and countless of others have been killed by law enforcement or others for no rhyme or reason https://newsone.com/playlist/black-men-youths-who-were-killed-by-police/item/50. These young men just happened to “fit” the profile of a criminal and they were not.
On this blog I typically only discuss matters regarding holistic living. I believe mental and spiritual health are apart of living holistically.
I have spoke to my children about their rights as When They See Us was definitely a teachable moment for us all. I pray to God for peace and a time when every one will love each other regardless of difference.
I do not have the answer to healing from this perpetual wrong doing that continues. It seems as we try to heal there is another young black person who is killed and we cannot comprehend why.
I do know that we must continue talking and pointing out these actions. We cannot just accept it as a way of life. I felt it in my spirit to discuss on my platform. Who knows? Maybe some further discussion could take place and lead to action leading to acceptance and healing.