“Boys will be boys. When they say boys, they not talking about us. They talking about boys from other places. When do we ever get to be boys?”
The answer is never. Well not for Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Korey Wise, and Raymond Santana that is. Their childhood was taken from them unjustly. What happened to them was cruel, disgusting, inhumane, and downright illegal. Their innocence was stolen. But let Linda “Fair”stein tell it, everything was done by the book.
So, interrogating minor children without their parents' permission is by the book?
So, hitting and threatening children to intimidate them and scare them is by the book?
So, coercing confessions is by the book?
So, promising things you know you won’t deliver on is by the book?
So, holding kids in a small, secluded room for 42 hours with no food or water is by the book?
These were CHILDREN!!! In every sense of the word. Should they have been acting up in the park that night? They were kids so “boys will be boys”. Why can’t our kids just ever be fucking kids? One night of them literally just being kids turned into a lifetime nightmare. And for what? Some power-hungry prosecutor wanted to finally win one. Instead of being practical and looking at the facts, she looked at their complexion. She had her mind made up that these “thugs” will pay. Her hatred for black people superseded her purpose in her career to do what’s right. Their future was determined the minute she laid eyes on them. Ms. “Fair”stein didn’t care about the woman who was assaulted. She didn’t care about finding the true attacker. She didn’t care about facts. She didn’t care about justice. She only cared about herself. This will make a name for me and my department. Period. You see she went off and wrote a handful of books and was on the best seller list. A handful of books based on this case. This case is what made her successful. That’s what’s wrong with so many people in these positions but that’s another blog for another time chile. Ironic her name is “Fair”stein, because she was far from fair regarding her actions towards these boys.
And let's not talk about the detectives that mishandled this case. They were “Fair”steins henchmen. They literally told their own narrative and fed it to children for them to regurgitate for their own benefit knowing damn well they had nothing to do with this woman’s attack. They lied to those kids and their parents. They physically and mentally abused those kids. They set those kids up to fail in a system that was already created against us. Want to know the sad part about this whole situation? There are people who work in the injustice system doing the same exact things today to kids who do not belong in the system. Would things have been different if the parents and the kids knew their rights?
Yusef’s mother marched right into that precinct and not only read that pale-colored woman to filth but demanded to see her child. She then took her child with her because they had no probable cause to keep him. He wasn’t under arrest and his confession was coerced and under duress.
What if all of the parents demanded the same thing?
What if Antron’s father hadn’t convinced him to lie?
What if Korey would’ve stayed with his girlfriend?
What if Kevin would’ve gone with his friend to play basketball?
What if Korey decided to not go with Yusef and the cops?
What if Raymond’s dad didn’t have to go to work?
What if they had better attorneys?
What if they would’ve stuck to their truth about not having any involvement?
So many questions ran through my mind while watching this and how one decision can determine the rest of your life. The biggest what if of them all is “what if the people who had a duty to serve and protect just would’ve done their got damn job correctly in the first place?” And with absolutely no evidence or DNA to tie them to the crime, they were convicted.
Not only were those kids lives ruined but so were their families. They struggled emotionally. They struggled financially. Some couldn’t find jobs. Some turned on each other. The ripple effect was never ending. The massive destruction was continuous. This also shows how tragedy affects everyone differently. There is no one way to process emotions when dealing with trauma. Take Antron’s family for instance. His father convinced him to lie to the police so ultimately Tron blamed him for his time in juvenile detention. Like father, like son. His parents became estranged and when Tron was released, he and his father were also estranged. Then you have Kevin and his family who were stuck together like glue. They remained close and never allowed their circumstances to change their family dynamic. Families were still strained, never to regain the normalcy they once had, and their lives were changed forever.
While all of their stories hurt, the one that made me cry, made me angry, made me emotional the most, was Korey’s story. He had three things against him that they used.
Because he was sixteen at the time, he was legally allowed to be questioned by the crooked detectives without parental supervision. Because he was sixteen, he was sentenced as an adult and sent to Rikers which has the reputation of being the roughest and toughest prisons in the country. People go to Rikers to die. Either they are killed by the hands of other inmates, by the hands of the correction officers or they kill themselves. So just imagine a sixteen-year-old, disabled boy going to this place. Korey was a child in an adult prison where he didn’t belong. They target the vulnerable in places like that. Although Korey’s story of his imprisonment is mentally challenging to hear and digest, some amazing life lessons derived from his experience. One of the biggest lessons is to always stay true to yourself. Korey was eligible for parole. The only thing he had to do was admit his involvement. That’s it. Had he done so, he could have been released to never see another solitary confinement cell again. But he never did. Not even to be free.
“They don’t want to hear my truth. I don’t want to waste my energy.”
Because Korey never folded, he met the man who ultimately would free him. The very person who wasn’t a suspect to begin with, is the very reason they were able to become exonerated, Korey. The ACTUAL attacker confessed and after DNA evidence proved his confession to be true, they were exonerated. The justice system didn’t do that.
Reading about it was one thing. To actually see it portrayed made it more real in a sense. We could never experience what they have but it felt like we did. The tears you cried, the anger you felt, the lump in your throat, you holding your breath, that was all real. I watched the series and it took me a week to write this. Every time I tried, I cried. Then I got angry again. It was a recurring cycle of emotion because as much as it wasn’t us, it still could be. I can see ME in THEM. Because the justice system isn’t just when it comes to us.
“People are literally afraid to watch a movie about the justice system. It’s a horror film to us. Let that sink in. Watching When They See Us IS A HORROR FILM TO US.”
We knew the story.
We know the story.
This is OUR story.
They are no longer the “Central Park 5.” They never were.
They are the Exonerated Five and they have names.