Social Issues

Innocent Until Proven Black.

Then you’re f*cked.

-Anonymous

Social media is furious after viewing Ava DuVernay’s Netflix series ‘When They See Us.’ The 4 part series documents the Central Park jogger case of the late 80s in which five juvenile teens (four African-American and one Hispanic) were convicted of assaulting and raping a white woman in New York’s Central Park, despite DNA evidence (actual semen) confirming all five were not a match.

You should be fuming.

After the attack, the police went on a manhunt and rounded up five teens. The teens, who didn’t even know one another, were coerced into identifying each other as an attacker while being held for hours without a lawyer or parent present. Nobody’s president, Donald Trump, placed a full page newspaper ad, at the time, demanding the teens receive the death penalty. Amongst other loopholes in the case, in 1990, they were still found guilty and sentenced to varying terms of 5 – 15 years. Four of the teens were sent to a juvenile facility, while the one 16 year old was sent to Riker’s Island.

Korey, Yusef, Raymond, Antron, and Kevin.

In 2002, Matias Reyes, a convicted murderer and serial rapist, confessed to raping the jogger. DNA evidence confirmed him as the attacker, and he suggested to the court that the five teen’s convictions be vacated. In 2002, their convictions were vacated. In 2003, they sued New York City and won their case for $41 million.

The documentary is emotional. You will be angered, frustrated, and saddened. While there are many social media posts expressing anger and outrage, there are just as many stating that the series couldn’t be watched because of the emotional impact. It’s a lot to handle because its real. This is not one of those times where writers used “based on true events” as leeway to embellish the storyline a bit. This story is real as fuck. It’s painful. It’s triggering. It’s traumatic. And, you should watch it. Every African-American should watch it and be angered, frustrated, saddened, and outraged. Because this isn’t fiction. We know without a doubt that this can happen — that it has happened — and it still happens.

Be angry.

History proves that change doesn’t happen until black people get angry. If you look back to the Selma bus boycott, the fight to integrate schools, or any other historical civil rights event, it took black folks getting mad for change to happen. We got mad, we pulled together, we organized, we boycotted, and we relied on each other. Folks need to get mad. Because when you are mad, you take action. You demand change. We have to stop running from pain while expecting the system to do the right thing. Or being okay with the system being the way it is. It doesn’t have to be this way. Yes, it’s traumatic. It’s painful. But pushing through pain is how black people have survived since enslavement here.

Let’s talk history for a second.

In the history of the United States, the law has never been in our favor. In fact, the law has been used to limit the rights of African-Americans time and time again. In 1857, the Supreme Court (aka the highest court in the land) ruled (Dred Scott v Sanford) that the U.S. Constitution was not meant to include citizenship for black people regardless of whether they were free or enslaved, and that the rights conferred within the the Constitution did not apply to black people. It wouldn’t be for another 8 years when the Thirteenth Amendment was adopted abolishing slavery and servitude, except for punishment as a crime.

If you scroll throughout the civil rights timeline in the US, the one thing that is consistent is that the goal posts are constantly moved to benefit “a majority.”

After the peak of the civil rights era when black people were on the up (good jobs, college educations, owning property), boom — crack hit. Do you really believe that the crack epidemic in the 80s was just a random thing? At a time when black people were really prospering and becoming educated? What happens when you take away the black male? The black birth rate decreases. If you dissolve generations of families due to violence, drug abuse, and mass incarceration, the black population will remain a minority. So while the black population is in recovery mode, the latino population has risen. Now there’s a border epidemic, there’s ICE, there’s immigration detention centers, and abortion bans. (Note: contrary to stereotypical beliefs, white women have abortions the most in the US). Anything to keep the majority — the majority.

Be mad.

Be mad enough to encourage your sons and daughters to become lawyers and judges. Be mad enough to support the African-Americans in your local community running for public office. The District Attorney/State Attorney, in your county or town, are usually political appointees that are voted in by the local residents. Be mad enough to donate to the campaigns of minorities running for public office. Be mad enough to show up at town halls and city council meetings expressing your concerns. Be mad enough to drag everybody you know out to vote in 2020. Be mad enough to demand change and justice — yourself.

Change doesn’t happen when you’re comfortable. Change happens when you’ve been broken or when you’re fed up. If you want change the system, you have the break the system from the inside, and reconfigure it so that when they see us …

We’ll be that Judge.

When they see us, we’ll be that District Attorney. That State Attorney.

When they see us, we’ll be that Congressional Representative.

When they see us, we’ll be that Vice President.

When they see us, we’ll be that President.

Obama showed us that we can do historical shit, such as electing the first black president, when we pull together.

“Together,” he said, “we can do it.”

Be angry enough to make it happen.

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