When They See Us premiered May 31st on Netflix. The series is based on the true story of how five black teenage boys were falsely accused and convicted of rape. When They See Us breaks down the US criminal justice system during the Central Park Five case in four episodes. The series is written, created and directed by no one other than Ava DuVernay. She did an amazing job! Before we get into When They See Us, definitely check out my last review on Beyoncé’s Homecoming. Let’s go! Note: spoilers!
When They See US
First of all, When They See Us is based on a true story. The story starts right at the beginning: five boys that are going to the park with their friends. What they don’t know is that at that same park, a female jogger is attacked. She is raped and beaten severely. Also, you’ll understand that she was in a coma for 12 days and does not remember anything of her attack. Furthermore, the NYPD is led by Linda Fairstein and she is determined to blame five random (black) boys. That is the root of this story. Throughout the series, we follow Yusuf Salaam, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise through this injustice that was done to them.
The Central Park Five
In When They See Us, we get to see the injustice that has been done to these five boys. I was prepared to be mad and sad because of the reactions I had come across. However, I was mostly mad because most things didn’t add up and were very unfair. Firstly, the boys were aged 14 to 16, and only Korey Wise was 16 at the time. Kevin Richardson was the youngest, yet the first one to be arrested for the rape along with Raymond Santana.
Next, the boys were with a large group of people, so they had enough witnesses that could place them NOT at the crime scene. Moreover, the way the police and DA lied about details of the case and told their family members to sign the statements so that they could go home was wrong. Additionally, even when the boys insisted they were innocent, weren’t there and didn’t do it, the police coerced the boys into confessing. If you’ve watched the confession tapes, you know that ish don’t add up. Overall, the greatest injustice about this whole case is that the people who made sure they were convicted, knew that they were innocent all along.
America was NEVER great.
One important thing about When They See Us is Donald Trump’s appearance. There was a clip of him blatantly stating his (irrelevant) opinion during the Central Park Five case. He urged New York to bring back the death penalty for these five boys. I mean, when I learned that Donald Trump took out full-page ads in four newspapers that cost him $85,000, I was appalled. My first thought was: if you need to pay that much for an ad, what you’re selling mustn’t be that good. And I don’t know why he thinks America was once great. All that When They See Us has showed is that America has never been great, and by the looks of it, it will never be great.
I think Korey’s story is maybe one of the saddest. One because he only got implicated because he accompanied his friend Yusef to the police station. He even expressed that Yusef’s mom would be mad at him if he didn’t. The last episode was therefore the hardest to watch. You got a deep look into Korey Wise’s journey after being incarcerated. He was already sixteen at the time, so he had to go to Riker’s Island. Korey stayed in prison for 13 years, while the others went for 7. Due to the notoriety of his case, Korey was in constant danger, as you could see in When They See Us.
One part about Korey’s story that touched upon the fact that he too, he was a child, was the scene when he tells the guard that he likes it when he calls him ‘kid’. Look at how happy he was when he got that A-team chia head! That guard was the only person that humanized Corey. The guard said to him that he had a boy back home and if that would happen to his boy he would want others to treat his boy right. He saw Korey exactly for what he was: a boy. Last but not least, the guard gave Korey a job, which added importance to Korey’s humanity. One thing that broke my heart, was Korey thinking of the moment he could have stayed with his girlfriend instead of going to the park.
The Exonorated Five
The Central Park Five became the Exonorated Five when Matias Reyes confessed to the crime. Not only did he confess, but DNA evidence also proved that he indeed was the perp. When the men were exonerated in 2002, they sued the city of New York but NY only agreed to settlement in 2014. And what is crazy about this Reyes, is that at the time of the crime, he was already known with the police. He was formerly arrested for rape in the same area and all the NYPD had to do was test his DNA against the rape kit. I think it is unbelievable that they were exonorated, not because justice prevailed, but because the real perp confessed. How messed up.
We See You
When They See Us shows that the Central Park Five were good kids, innocent kids. And how America and its justice system that is based on racism has destroyed their innocence, because it refused to believe that black boys cannot be just that: boys. However, they should! When They See Us has also exposed America’s fear of black and brown (male) bodies as opposed to maintaining the fragility and innocence of white (female) bodies. No, the jogger has no fault in her attack and rape at all. However how Fairstein was convinced that it was the work of black boys and her ability to get them convicted was not based off evidence, but blatant racism. The boys were prejudged guilty until proven innocent and that is how the criminal justice system failed them. However, we still see them for what they are. Black boy (man), rise. Rise.
The real criminals
real criminals in this case are Linda Fairstein and her whole team who knew damn well these boys were innocent. But also the DA, Elizabeth Lederer. What is crazy about nowadays, is that we have social media. We have cellphone camera’s that can record any injustices and we are able to share everything with just one button. That is why I’m happy to announce that Elizabeth Lederer has stepped down from her teaching position at Columbia Law. This is due to a student protest from the Black Law Students Association at Columbia (I see you!). That is not all! I’m also happy to announce that Linda Fairstein has been dropped by her book publisher. She wrote crime novels (yikes!). Additionally, she has resigned from her alma mater and the board of a nonprofit victim assistant organization.
Definitely go watch When They See Us on Netflix if you haven’t already. Let me know below your thoughts on the series. It is always good to read into these subjects and I also recommend listening to 3 episodes of Shaun King’s podcast The Break Down talking about When They See Us.
Senegalese Twisted | Youtube |Instagram | #sntwistedphoto | Facebook | See you in my next post :).