Image Credit: ATSUSHI NISHIJIMA / NETFLIX
Let me start off by saying, my heart is broken.
When Netflix recommends something to me I usually take it because Neftlix knows my taste. So when I saw When They See Us pop up I figured I would add it to my list and get to it at some point. I had no idea what the mini series was about.
A quick Google search (because, spoilers) showed that it was a mini series based on real life events surrounding a group of boys that became known as the Central Park 5 in the late 80s, early 90s. One weekend evening I found myself particularly lazy and decided to give it a shot.
I was invested from the jump. My head was spinning. I could not believe these events were true. There is no way this shit really happened is all I remember thinking. I was so taken aback by it that I texted my dad (who was an full blown adult around the time this took place) to ask him if he ever heard of this story. He told me he did; he remembered it in the news and to let him know what I thought when I was done with it.
This was a huge story for New York.
If you’re still here and have not left to go Google it by now, it is “story” about a (white) woman who was brutally raped and left for dead one night in Central Park. The same night the rape happened there were a large group of young black teen aged males “wilding out” in the park – harassing bicyclists and visitors of the park. The City was so hell bent on catching the rapist that they decided five of the black males that they caught that night must have done the rape. Yes, I used the correct verb, they DECIDED that these boys did this awful crime.
These BOYS were interviews, interrogated and were forced to sign statements admitting to the crime all without a parent or guardian present. They were then forced to have their “admittance” video recorded.
It was fucking awful. I was getting so upset watching. I was upset for the boys and I could not understand how in good conscience these Detectives could force these boys to say these things. How the Prosecutor could convince a group of seemingly intelligent Detectives that these children did this. How these Detectives convinced not only themselves, but these boys that they committed this awful crime. These boys who did not even know each other somehow worked together to rape and beat a woman who was on the other side of the park from where they were.
Of course the BOYS were put on trial and convicted… without a single piece of physical evidence to place them at the scene of the crime. Without a single piece of DNA evidence to link them to the crime. The most “amazing” part of the whole trial was when it was brought up how brutally this woman was beat; how much blood she lost; how the white top she was wearing that night was COMPLETELY SOAKED IN BLOOD, unrecognizable…. all that blood, but not a single drop of blood on any of the BOYS they had on trial.
My heart was breaking for the parents. The parents who sent their kids to the part that night to hang out with friends. The parent who actually told his son to tell the Police what they wanted to hear. The sister, who signed the statement of admittance for her brother just so that he could go home, so he thought. The one CHILD who was tried as an adult just because he was 16 years old (and in NY up until recently, 16 was considered an adult in regards to crimes committed); the same one who wasn’t even listed as someone in the park but went to the precinct to check on his friend; the same one who could barely read.
Everything about the story was mind boggling. I am having such a hard time wrapping my head around what happened.
Those BOYS are grown ass men now. They are out of jail and their names have been cleared, legally. I am sure there are people out there that are still convinced it was them. But those years that they lost they will never get back. No amount of money paid can fix the fact that they lost their childhood because a Prosecutor had something to prove.
I did not know the story at all before Netflix. So thank you to Ava DeVernay for bringing this story to light. The only thing that I did not care for in the series were the unnecessary references to Trump that seemed to be thrown in there randomly. No clue what he had to do with this. If he had a bigger part than what was portrayed then that should have been covered. Just like you can’t just throw black boys in jail, you can’t just throw wealthy white men’s names into stories about injustice. Otherwise, I would recommend this to everyone. I know this still happens, 30 years later and it needs to stop.