OPINION: "When They See Us" deserves more recognition


"When They See Us" was released in May of this year on Netflix. Courtesy Photo

Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise. Five names. One heartbreaking story of injustice, pain and the haunting effects of systemic inequality that plague America.  

Director and producer Ava DuVernay turned this heartbreaking story into a Netflix drama web television miniseries called "When They See Us," which was released this May. The miniseries opened the minds of people all over the world on the atrocities people of color face in the twisted criminal justice system of the U.S.

Last Sunday, twenty-one-year-old Jharrel Jerome became the first Afro-Latino and first Dominican to win an acting Emmy for best lead actor in a limited series for his chilling performance of Kory Wise. He is also the youngest person to receive the award. 

Jerome dedicated his award to the five men. 

"When They See Us" is a socially revolutionary series. The miniseries is deserving of many awards and accolades because it brought attention to a case that summarizes the American justice system. 

Thirty years ago, five boys — four black and one Hispanic — were falsely accused of rape, attempted murder, riot, robbery, assault and sexual assault. They were interrogated, mentally manipulated and unjustly coerced into admitting to a crime they did not commit.

The next year, the Central Park Five, now known as the Exonerated Five, were convicted of a range of crimes although there was no substantial evidence. The boys were sentenced to 5-15 years in prison. 

They were unfairly stereotyped by people who had no idea what truly happened on that night. But one thing they did know was the skin color of the boys. 

They were viewed as monsters, criminals and thugs when they were completely innocent. 

As unsurprising as this may be, at the time, President Donald Trump even bought advertisements published in various major papers, such as the New York Times, demanding for them to receive the death penalty.

In classic Trump fashion, he has refused to apologize for the blatant racism and ignorance. 

In 2002, the last of the men were released from prison after the real murderer had more sympathy than law enforcement and confessed to the crimes. 

"When They See Us" displayed the case in an informative, transformational and emotional way.  

I have never had a show give me that much real pain. 

Jerome’s performance of Wise was incredibly chilling. He embodied the hurt and devastating emotional deterioration from being thrown into jail in a way that felt so real. You could witness the character break, and it was so raw that you could not help but to break at the same time.  

I have never watched a show that made me feel this uneasy or sick to my stomach.

I have never had to intentionally watch a show by section, because watching it all at once was too unbearable and triggering. 

But I have never had a show incite such a desire to mend these inequalities. 

I have never seen a show create so much dialogue about issues that seem to be brushed under the rug of racist American history. 

So, if you haven’t, watch "When They See Us" and see just how much it transforms you. 

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