Facts and Opinions

To Kill A Mockingbird Come to Life: The Central Park Five

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

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Facts and Opinions

Gas Lighting and the Black Community: No…You’re Not Crazy

“Why are you making it a race thing?” “It’s not always about race!” “It’s all in your head.” Usually, when a person has to assure another that something isn’t about race…it is about race. We are living in a racially charged environment during this new Trump era, where two differing political opinions can create a mental detonation. Yes We Can and the presidential election of the first president of black descent in 2008 glossed over the fact that racism is still very much alive and thriving. I will say, Donald J. Trump is not my favorite person; he never will be, and I am not the fondest of people who agree with his ideologies. However, I will have to give him credit where credit is due. He exposed the racists in America! As people of color were a tad more relaxed during President Obama’s….sorry, former president Barack Obama’s presidency, they are on their pins and needles now more than ever before. I mean, out of 200 to 230 million registered voters, around 46.1% of votes went to Trump. To me, and plenty of others, that’s more than enough. That many people approve of what he believes in. That many people are against me and my basic human rights.

The black community is not a meek community. When an injustice occurs, they are right there on the front lines, giving their time, protesting the wrong doings of the government, and making it known that they will not take the disrespect that their community has endured for far too long. Being a person of color in America has it’s disadvantages, and no one can tell me otherwise. As a black woman from the city of Chicago, I am instantly seen as some ghetto, ratchet hood rat. I am seen as unintelligent and improper; un-ladylike. No, I do not sell drugs, and I do not know anyone who does. I have never met Chief Keef…no, I cannot give him your mixtape. I have not been shot at, nor have I fired a gun off myself. I don’t have sickle cell believe it or not. Those were all things that I have had to tell my non-poc counterparts. I decided to ignore it and grit my teeth, but now being older I wish I hadn’t. If I could go back to the conversation all over again, I would read them on the blatant stereotypes that conjured up as facts to depict the black race.

I was just reading about Serena Williams and her incident at the U.S Open. I watched the video, I saw what went on. Serena was mad! And rightfully so! Serena Williams is arguably one of the best athletes in the world right now. She’s confident in what she does; she knows she’s good. She has overcome a lot of adversity and ridicule, only to come out on top at the end. When she was being accused of cheating by the umpire appointed during the game, her response was warranted. I’m sure that if you were being arraigned for some type of cheating, you would not take it with a smile and a grain of salt. You’d be pissed! When Serena confronted the umpire on what he had done, now she’s seen as irate. The umpire’s call has nothing to do with her being a black woman, right? But when the majority white male tennis players curse at the umpire, throw their rackets down and spit, they’re deemed passionate and driven. Serena didn’t even do all of that! And she’s still being portrayed as this angry black woman. Soon after, Mark Knight, an Australian illustrator, drew a cartoon about the incident. A blind person could see that the comic was racist. The way he drew Serena reminded me of a Jim Crow era caricature. She looked like a mammy; jumping up and down on the tennis court with a pacifier laying next to her. Why was she so exaggerated? The umpire in the comic looked fine, and Naomi Osaka (her opponent), looked like a white woman! They basically white washed her to make Serena look like a brute. When confronted about his art, Knight claimed that it “wasn’t about race” and that “people are becoming crazy.”

That, my friends, is called gas lighting. Gas lighting is the manipulation of a person into questioning their own sanity. When it comes to the black community, in terms of racial inequality, it’s not a rarity to be questioned on how we feel or how we’re treated. When a person has a privilege, I assume it would be hard to put yourself in another person’s shoes. It may be difficult to realize that other human beings do not get the same treatment. Being seen as the “right” kind of American might come with a set of rose colored glasses. That’s one of the biggest arguments that I’ve ever been in is explaining why white privilege exists. I brought up the fact that due to stereotypes and notions that have already been established about the black community, white people are seen as better equipped than a black person. She retorted with the fact that she once lived in a trailer and struggled financially, claiming that she did not have white privilege because money was tight for her and her family at one point. White privilege knows no class. If you’re white, in America, and practically any place that has people of color, you’re alright. That was not the only time that black issues were questioned into actually existing, and I had the honor of being in the midst of it all. Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter. Remember that debate? Ignorance was exposed when more and more people began to side with ALM, saying that all lives are cherished and valued. Do I agree that they should all be cherished and valued? Yes. In this political climate, are all lives being treated that way? No. Absolutely not. I have gotten into a few verbal wars about Black Lives Matter, dispelling the myth that it is a terrorist group, and that it’s a hate organization towards other races. “If you don’t believe that all lives don’t matter, then you’re racist!” one girl said in one of my political science classes. I was shocked. This girl has also said previously that trans-gendered people were mentally ill, so I knew that we would never ever get along. BLM focuses on the issues that black people face on a day to day basis. It has never wished death upon other races of people, and if people within the movement have, then they are not true BLM followers. They want equality, not superiority.

Another instance that happened to me was during my freshman year of college. I was apart of my college choir. Attending a PWI (predominantly white institution), it’s not odd to be the only black person in the class, or one of the token few. It was me and four other black people in the choir. One of the pieces that we were given was titled, Death Is Gonna Lay Its Cold Icy Hands On Me. The fact that a chorus of 85% white people is singing a Negro spiritual irked me very much so, but the fact that they completely disregarded what the song is about was icing on the cake. One of the directors stated that he wanted us to sound “sexy” as we sang about slaves being afraid that they would die fleeing to freedom. That was terribly insensitive of them.  One of the other black girls in the group began to cry because it affected her so much. My friend and I approached the director about it, and how continuing to sing the song was not a good idea. He instantly tried to relate it to himself, saying that he was made fun of as a child because he was Catholic. Nice try, but you can hide a religion, it’s a bit harder to hide your race. I am not saying that you should hide your religion, but it would be easier for me to hide the fact that I’m a Christian than hide the fact that I’m black. Our plight fell on deaf ears. On the day of the concert, my and I closed our books and refused to sing in protest.

Those are just a few times that I came in contact with gas lighting, and I’ll probably come in contact with it. My Health Matters writer Dennis R. Upkins gave a few more examples of gas lighting that he’s heard. “The reality is whenever you’re a person of color speaking out against racism and white supremacy, it’s a safe bet that you will be on the receiving end of gaslighting” says Upkins. And I completely agree with him. It’s funny how non-poc people think that they know people of color better than people of color know themselves, huh?

Gas lighting is being told that you’re being rude when telling a white person that you don’t want them touching your box braids that are still sore. Gas lighting is saying that white people get killed by police more often that black people, when there are less black people in America, and their percentage of police brutality deaths are a larger population. Gas lighting is saying that Michael Brown being gunned down in the middle of the street was justifiable because he was a big, menacing looking guy. Gas lighting is neoliberal multiculturalism. It’s thinking that black people are complaining and not putting effort into the things that they do. Gas lighting is all around us. Stay strong and stay aware…and no….YOU ARE NOT CRAZY!

Where I found some of my sources:

Federal Elections 2016:

https://transition.fec.gov/pubrec/fe2016/federalelections2016.pdf

https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/30441531/Roberts___Carter_Andrews_-_Gaslighting_of_African_American_teachers.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1537199931&Signature=Ti3zs%2FF4tK2PhqNaJP6I135IjHw%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DA_critical_race_analysis_of_the_gaslight.pdf

https://mental-health-matters.com/denying-racism-and-other-forms-of-gaslighting/

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