WARNING: I GET MAD AS HELL IN THIS POST AND KIND OF GO ALL OVER THE PLACE
My younger brother is about to turn seventeen in July. He is 5’6, has this beautiful mocha skin tone, a full fledged beard, and the biggest heart. He truly is the sweetest kid I’ve ever known. He is damn near good at everything he decides to invest his time in. He can play the guitar in a few months better than some can in decades. He is a genius when it comes to math…and then there’s his sister, who gets confused adding 2+2 (I think the answer is 4). He can spend his whole day on the computer, creating virtual realities. He runs track, and he’s fast too. He is one of the smartest and most talented people I have ever met. I am very blessed to call him my brother.
My brother also is one of the most innocent people I have ever come across. He really doesn’t mean any harm by anything he does. He thinks that everyone in the world is good, and although I believe that everyone CAN be good, sometimes people don’t like to go that route. My brother looks like a grown man. He has a stern face and muscular build. The color of his skin represents the history that has flowed through our family for decades. It’s the skin color that my Father has, and that his Father had. When I look at my brother, I see hope. I see love. I see the future. I see a young man who doesn’t care what anyone says because he is genuinely, authentically him. I wish I had that confidence. But when “they” see him…when “they” see him…they don’t see any of that.
When “they” see him they see contempt. They see a threat; a breach of safety. They see a criminal. That sweet kid that used to cry when butterflies would flutter around him is instantly seen as less than human. After contemplating whether I had the mental strength to go through something like this, I decided to watch When They See Us. This four part series is about the Central Park Five, five young men who were falsely accused of raping a woman back in 1989. (photo above left to right) Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise had their youth stolen from them because the New York Police Department wanted to focus on ruining their lives instead of actually focusing on the actual person who raped Patricia Meili, and murdered Lourdes Gonzalez prior to that attack. This series made me angry. The way that the trial went, the way that Linda Fairstein was so adamant on persecuting these young men. The fact that the evidence was a clear indication that they did NOT do it! The fact that they all had hopes and dreams, only to be shot down by being put behind those bars. This series made me grit my teeth in aggravation. This series made me bite back tears. (SPOILER) The scene where Korey (there are multiple spellings on the internet) receives a Chia Pet after wishing for one made me practically lose it. What that poor man endured I couldn’t even imagine; all of them.
Young black boys have been forced to grow up quickly in the eyes of the law. They’re seen as adults in elementary school. The preconceived notions that plague black boys, and black people in general are killing them because people are too stupid to realize that they are human beings too. I guarantee that if they were five white boys, their DNA would have been tested and immediately after they found out that nothing was a match, they would have back at home listening to their Walkman’s in their bedrooms. Let me remind you that NOTHING MATCHED THE DNA ON PATRICIA MEILI!!! There was no blood or skin on her that matched any of the boys. Nothing. They should have been able to go home right then and there. In a VladTV interview, Yusef Salaam says that the police were trying to plant some of the boy’s DNA on the crime scene. I believe they took Kevin and Korey to the scene of the crime. Korey is told by one of the officers that his shoe is untied. While trying to tie his shoe, one of the officers tries to make him fall over into the scene, attempting to collect evidence on him.
Imagine the psychological damage that this has done to these men. Something as simple as going to Central Park with friends turns into seven to thirteen years in jail. Imagine being thrown in jail for something that you did not do; being ridiculed and isolated by family and friends because the justice system that is supposed to bring the truth to light is automatically treating you like the culprit all because your melanin is more apparent than most. What made me upset is Antron McCray’s Dad. Granted, his Father probably wasn’t properly told how to deal with the police, so I won’t completely blame him for practically leading his son astray, but the fact that he just started bowing out of his son’s life when things started to get rough in unacceptable to me. Then, as soon as Antron gets out, he has to basically repair that relationship that he has with his Father because now he doesn’t know how much time he has left with him. Antron probably felt betrayed by his Father. My own Dad is bailing out on me, your own flesh and blood; a person who helped give you life. A video by Calvin Michaels goes a little more in depth as to how that might have affected Antron, as well as the rest of the psychological trauma that these guys have been through.
You have people tuning into this case, judging your every move. These young men had their numbers and addresses revealed to the public. They were threatened; people wishing for their deaths as well as the deaths of their family members. People associated with these five were also ostracized, losing things like their social status, their jobs…and their sanity. Think about what they endured locked up. Being accused of rape and robbery is certainly not something that people take lightly. Think about how the man who took out $85,000 for an ad calling to reinstate the death penalty against these innocent young men is president; leader of the free world. On Twitter in the year of 2013, eleven years after these men were exonerated, Donald Trump was still blabbing about how the Central Park Five were guilty. Now if that isn’t blatant racism, I don’t know what is. Let them be little blonde haired blue eyed boys, he would have been saying something a little different; boys will be boys, or crap like that. Think about when they were freed. You think the psychological turmoil stopped there, oh no. The things that they went through probably haunt them to this day.
I want to focus a little bit more on Korey Wise. Each young man has all my respect, but Korey Wise…let me tell you something. The men were exonerated and given $40 million to divide, but Mr. Wise should have gotten $40 million just for himself. First off, he went down to the police station to support his friend Yusef. I know he didn’t expect things to turn out this way; none of them did. Because Wise was sixteen, he didn’t have to be accompanied by an adult, which gave the interrogator free reign to ask whatever he wanted, however he wanted. This young man already had a learning disability as well as hearing issues, so I honestly think that’s the reason why they gave it to him the worst. He was beaten up the most by the authorities, being physically hit and yelled at by detectives. He was tried as an adult at the age of sixteen and sent to Riker’s Island, the infamous prison in New York City. A sixteen year old kid in a world that he never should have experienced. He spent more than a decade in prison. He begged to be in solitary confinement. When you’re in solitary confinement, you have no outside interaction. Being in complete isolation for long periods of time can make you lose your mind. But would you rather stay completely hidden from most of society, or would you like to be targeted by other inmates and made to be their play thing? At a young age, Korey Wise had to make that decision. One thing that Calvin Michaels caught on to that I did as well in the movie is the police officer that was around before he asked for solitary; the one that would always say, “I’ll let you know if you can do something for me” or something like that. I think he was sexually abused, but since I don’t know for sure, I’ll just leave it at that. His sister was murdered while he was in prison too, we can’t forget about her (a wonderful performance by Isis King playing Marci Wise). Her being disrespected as a trans woman is one thing, but being killed crushed Korey. He wasn’t able to be there during her last days. As her brother, I’m sure that he was somewhat of a protector, and I hope he didn’t blame himself for what happened to her. Out of the settlement, Korey was given the highest amount of money at $12.2 million.
Most of these men have children. The fear that they have for their sons is genuine and real because they have went through any man of color’s worst nightmare. I am not a licensed mental health professional yet, but I’m sure that these men still are affected by these incidents. PTSD from the violence that they were subjected to in prison, maybe anxiety and depression from the taunts that people threw at them. The mind doesn’t fully finish forming until your mid twenties, do you think that this helped a healthy brain development? Being told that you’re a monster? Being abused by the system?
It took me three days to try and sit through Ava Duvernay’s masterpiece, and I can honestly say that I am ashamed at the fact that I really didn’t know much about the Central Park Five. It’s crazy to think that this happened in 1989. Isn’t it insane that this situation could very well happen now? Isn’t it insane that black people are treated this way still in 2019? I am fearful for my brother. He takes the bus to and from school. It terrifies me thinking that one day I will hear that my brother is in jail, or that he was shot by a police officer because his cellphone fell out of his pocket. Like the end of the first episode states, “when will we be boys?” My brother has been told how to act around the police and warned about the dangers of the police ever since he was the age of four. Don’t wear that because you might be seen as a threat. Try to smile more because a police officer might find you threatening if you don’t. Just do what the police officer tells you. As soon as you’re pulled over, put your hands on the steering wheel and don’t move them. We don’t want you to get killed. School for my brother will be coming to a close soon, and I’m sure he will want to go out and see the sights that Chicago has to offer. I’m afraid that one day he’ll walk out of the house, only to never walk back in again. When will my brother just be seen as a boy? Has he ever been one?
Calvin Michael’s Video:
I highly recommend you watch it