Devastated. Sickened. Dumbfounded. Disappointed.
These are the only words that truly represents how I felt when the Exonerated Five case was brought to my attention. I had never seen something so horrific and heartbreaking, since the Scottsboro 9 case.
After I finished watching the Netflix series about them, “When They See Us,” my soul urged me to dig deeper into the case, and read the transcripts and records. I just wanted to understand why young people, especially young Black and Hispanic males, are such targets in the criminal justice system. There may be more innocent young people being falsely accused of or convicted of a crime they did not commit. “The Exonerated Five” are just one of the few the world has chosen to acknowledge.
Five Black and Latino teenagers from Harlem: Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise, and Yusef Salaam were probably thinking how much fun they would have in the park. They never would have thought that they would end up in prison. The five were coerced and manipulated by the police, without their parents or any adults. These teens were unaware of their rights; the police abused their power and used their ignorance of the law against them. At the end of the trial, the five young men were convicted and their lives were ruined forever.
After suffering in their teen years and more in juvenile and prison, and subsequently being released, they still did not get real justice. Real justice would have been for the police to arrest the real criminals the first time. Real justice would have been for the police to follow proper procedure and protocol when interrogating young males. Real justice would have been to release these five young males because of lack of evidence. Sadly, real justice has not been served.
Although these young men were all freed from prison and received a few million dollars, their lives are forever changed. Money does not take away the pain and trauma held within their hearts. Money does not make up for the years they lost behind bars. Their youth was stripped away from them. They will never be able to experience prom, the desperation to walk across the stage, the stresses of the tests and homework, the joys of pep rallies, or just hanging out with their friends. They never got the chance to just be boys and they never will.
What makes my heart ache the most is that injustices like these continue to happen. Despite the outcry, outrage, and publicity of these injustices, I see no evidence of change.
“When They See Us” first came out everyone was #justice for exonerated five. Months later, the fervor and passion seems to have died and no one even talks about them anymore. Injustice does not die and we need to talk about it. Our young black and brown males are targeted and criminalized. This must change. One of the keys to change is love. Love from everyone one as a whole. This isn’t White vs. Black. This is White, Black, Hispanic, Arabic, etc. vs. Racism and Injustice.
If everyone would come together to fight injustice, then perhaps some changes could happen in the courts, police departments, and correctional facilities. Maybe justice would be applied properly.
However, there are challenges to this ideal. Events, news, and other issues are pulling everyone apart. We have been programmed to believe that each race is very different from one another, and that one race is better than another. We have allowed stereotypes to affect our judgment, to distrust, and form opinions and thoughts without knowing the individuals. We need to talk to people and get to know them before we dismiss them. We need to acknowledge the differences and learn how to handle them. We need to understand that our differences make us unique but together these differences can be powerful enough to bring about change that is so needed in this world.
So, it is time for us to come together to fight injustice and truly make this world a place of love.