“FAIR?! Does that word mean anything, this is about politics and politics is about survival.” These were the words of Elizabeth Lederer, the lead attorney for the prosecution in the Central Park Jogger Case. This mini-series, written by Ava Duvernay chronicles the events of the U.S. criminal justice system during this trial, which left five innocent brown boys in despair. Lederer’s statement above, and so many of the events depicted in the series led me to one main question – WHAT IS FAIR?
While I agree that each individual, including the victim Trisha Meili, should be granted a fair trial and the right to justice, I questioned the prosecutors motives in the case, based on her statement. Like Meili, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana Jr., Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, and Korey Wise deserve the right to a fair and honest trial, but I reiterate my question of WHAT IS FAIR? From the beginning of this case to the sentencing, it is evident that Elizabeth Lederer knew that the treatment of these young men was unjust. Yet, she still chose not to speak up against it, due to her own personal career pursuits. Was her love of politics, budding career, or conviction rate more important than honor her oath to uncover the truth? When is it acceptable to sacrifice morality for professional gains?
Watching the story unfold made me wonder how far one must go to connect the pieces of a puzzle with only one matching piece, the location? Not to mention, there were so many other inconsistencies within the case that went seemingly unaddressed. It made me think, – How many others are serving unprecedented time for being wrongly accused? What amount of money can replace the time spent as prisoners? How does a “rehabilitative space” with conditions designed for the inhumane influence the physical, emotional, and mental psyche of these individuals?
Ava Duvernay does an exceptional job at depicting the reality of the investigation for each of the parties. In this instance, we see how the case affected not only the victims, but also the family and friends of the accused. Another theme that arises within the series is – Parenting Black Males. We see the relationship between Antron McCray and his father deteriorate as the case progresses. Bobby McCray struggles to support his son, as any parent would if they were in such a situation. While it is understood that Bobby McCray had spoken to Antron about how to communicate and deal with police when approached, nothing could have prepared him to teach his son how to respond to this.
Even, Korey Wise’s mom has a struggle with the process of understanding the justice system, police brutality, and how to respond. It is here, as a society, that we need to address how we teach our children about the justice system and its intricacies. More specifically, our rights and responsibilities under the law. Lack of knowledge is a curse in our community and defeats us every time. That coupled with fear is what prevents us from forward progression. These young men feared the system that is set to protect us because they simply did not know it.
This is a reminder of how important it is to educate ourselves on the judicial system and political process, to ensure that we can stop history from repeating itself. We have a right to question as well as speak our truth. For no reason should anyone’s rights be taken for granted, no matter their skin-tone. When They See Us brings awareness to the issues of the jaded incarceration system and systematic oppression that is in dire need of reform, even today. Let this mini-series be an indication of our need to inform ourselves and take action towards transformation, creating a momentum of Change.
So I ask, what’s next? How do we turn our lack of knowledge into informed decisions for the better? How do we navigate this space and know to choose morality above everything else? When will our headlines stop ending in eulogies and decorated police reports?
What will be your contribution to “BE the CHANGE?” What kind of F.E.A.R will you possess?! Will you Forget Everything and Run or Face Everything and Rise?
Written by Mystkue