People, people we are the sameFight the Power by Public Enemy
No we’re not the same
‘Cause we don’t know the game
I recently watched the first episode of Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us. To be honest I had to pause it in the middle to look up the whole story (yep that means read Wikipedia entry) because it’s hard for me to watch injustice to my people. Since a kid, I remember seeing those black and white videos of firefighters spraying us with water hoses and dogs attacking. It made me hate white people, not as a whole just the racist ones that saw in the videos. So back to Ava’s mini-series, I knew that it would put me in a bad mood and of course it didn’t take long for me to get angry. The way the police coerced these teens to confess and the parents not knowing their rights bothered me. The fact that it was the late 80’s not the 60’s when this happened is tragic. After reading up on everything about the Central Park Five I felt a little better but not completely. Linda Fairstein the prosecutor of these boys lost her publishing deal and was dropped from a number of nonprofits she was on the board of and a number of her awards were rescinded.
We can debate whether or not she deserves to have those things taken away. I don’t really care one way or another. I think the main problem we gather from this is if you don’t know how the system works you’re fucked, plain and simple. Do you think if it were a bunch of middle-class white kids running through the park they would be held without seeing a lawyer? Of course not, I imagine their parents would have gotten a lawyer and Linda and the gang would have had to find the real rapist. Fairstein still says the boys at the time were still guilty of first-degree assault and rioting, let’s say that’s true (and it’s probably not) that’s not the main reason they were put in jail. I believe Fairstein looked at it as five black men not boys savagely rapped and nearly killed a white woman. I don’t wish ill will to Fairstein I just wish she and the New York police department would apologize for their sin. I also hope that it can get some laws changed.
Think about this, the conviction was vacated in 2001 in 2012 Ken Burns made a documentary about this, nothing happens. Once When They See Us comes out people are charged up about it because reading something activates the analytical part of your brain but seeing the story connects you emotionally. I really would like to applaud Ava on this mini-series. Array, her independent film distribution and resource collective features filmmakers of color (funny how colored has come back in style) and is a great resource for filmmakers.
There’s power in storytelling that’s why it’s so important that we have voices from everywhere telling stories.