Director Ava Duvernay’s latest Netflix docuseries, When They See Us, sheds much needed light on the implications of five black and brown boys falsely convicted of a 1989 rape and assault case in New York City.
Duvernay’s underlying message throughout the piece is so vivid that her intentions clearly depicts how America’s justice system views Black Americans (more specifically our black boys).
So what exactly does America see…when they see us??
Among one of the first things that are seen is a person’s color, while a person’s character goes unnoticed. In the case of the Central Park 5, it was presumed that the kids who were approached about the crime automatically had to be involved because they were black. Law enforcement were so dedicated in making their presumptions true that they went as far as coercing the boys into agreeing to false events. So would this have happened if they didn’t see us as instant criminals?
In the eyes of the justice system, the mistreatment of black lives is justified. The reasons are because black boys, just like the ones in the Central Park 5, are seen as monsters who naturally have the ability to commit heinous crimes.
What would’ve happened if the Central Park 5 were seen as potentially honest young boys instead of the media’s villainous “young men”?
What if they were seen as individuals with hopes and dreams instead of a group of terrorizers? Would Kevin have had the chance to pursue his dreams as a trumpet player? Or would Antron have been able to convert his passion for sports into a career?
It’s unfortunate to live in a country where black people have to face basic challenges of being seen as a human beings. Measuring a person’s worth by their skin color is morally irresponsible. We should also take into account law enforcement’s neglect in considering the boys were in the wrong place at the wrong time is an outright shame on America. When did it become too much to ask to just be seen!??