Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us,” Sheds Light On Donald Trump’s Involvement With The ‘Central Park Five’
Ava DuVernay’s four-part Netflix series “When They See Us,”sheds light on the injustices brought against the Central Park Five.
The series brings to life the horrors these young black boys faced and how the system disgustingly failed them.
Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana Jr., Antron McCray and Korey Wise who ranged from ages 14 to 16 were accused of raping and beating a white jogger identified as Trisha Meili.
DuVernay emphasizes the youth of the boys, which makes the entire experience more horrifying. Especially, when she touches on the interrogation that the boys went through. They go from being completely unaware of the crime, to confessing to a rape they did not commit under false hope that they would be released from grueling hours of interrogation.
The case gained national attention and the media immediately turned the boys into criminals. Ava highlights the presumed guilt, not innocence, of black and colored boys, including the efforts of Donald Trump in regards to the case. A young Trump, who was in real-estate at the time, paid $85,000 to place ads in newspapers headlined in capital letters: “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!” His ad played a key part in shaping public opinion and poisoning the minds of those outside the case. The young boys were not given a chance despite the prosecutions lack of evidence or proving beyond a reasonable doubt that these boys raped this woman.
The series also depicts an NBC interview with Trump which is being watched by one of the mothers. She refers to him as the “devil” for trying to kill her son. This is a particularly heavy moment for viewers because that same “devil” would be in charge of the country years later.
Ava also heavily highlights the prosecutions case and Linda Fairstein’s determination to prosecute these boys despite the lack of evidence. Fairsten was the head of the Manhattan District sex crimes unit at the time.
She pushed for the coercion of the boys and intimidating them into confessing to a crime they did not commit. The series also touches on the numerous mistakes and inconsistencies within the testimonies of the officers and the fact that the DNA evidence collected from the scene did NOT match any of the boys. However, this doesn’t matter because a white woman had been brutalized, and America demanded someone be punished.
The series touches on the conviction and the lives of the boys in jail until 2002, where they are 20 years older. The convictions against the Central Park Five were vacated after DNA evidence showed that serial rapist Matias Reyes had committed the crime. Reyes met Korey Wise in prison (depicted in the fourth episode) and he felt bad so he confessed to the rape in Central Park, as a lone assailant.
The five men were finally cleared and they sued the city of New York for $40 million.
DuVernay’s series intentionally compares the past to the present, and makes us think about how we see others. It emphasizes that when future generations see what happened in the past they will be shocked to learn that little has changed.
The four-part series is available on Netflix.