WHITENESS IS THE VILLAIN OF ‘WHEN THEY SEE US’
By Erin White
June 6, 2019
I’ve seen a lot of shit and by far one of the most sinister non-drug cartel figures I’ve come to know is Linda Fairstein and her criminal justice.
Worse, Fairstein isn’t some fictional character in a crime thriller…she’s a real life woman who weaponized white womanhood to imprison, at the very least, five innocent Black boys who became men in prison. In 1989, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, and Kevin Richardson, known as the Central Park 5, was targeted and framed for raping then 28-year-old Trisha Meili in Central Park. Thirty years later, Academy Award-nominated director Ava DuVernay is setting the record straight about their wrongful convictions, the people who framed them, and the deep-seated corruption of the criminal legal system and prison industrial complex in her limited Netflix series When They See Us.
In the series we see that in order to make the people of New York City feel safe, the CP5 had to go to jail — guilty or innocent. Or so the white cops and prosecutors believed. Black lives were sacrificed for the illusion of white safety. Because actual safety was never the issue—punishing and vilifying Black people was. And that’s never more apparent than when we observe the institutional practices that help prosecutors criminalize anyone they want without evidence
And the implications that that brings. How many wrongfully convicted Black people are still imprisoned or have died in incarceration after being lied on by white people in power? DuVernay’s four-part masterpiece is painful, but an honest view into just how corrupt our justice system really is…and that was 30 years ago. What must it look like now when this culture of lawlessness and dehumanization has festered? God only knows.