When They See Us still (Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix)
Toggle caption Photo by Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix

‘When They See Us’ Transforms Its Victims Into Heroes

Ava DuVernay’s mini-series depicts the excruciating toll that persecution and incarceration had on the teenage boys known as the Central Park Five.

I was 13, a mere year younger than Kevin Richardson and Raymond Santana, two of the boys who made up Central Park Five, when they were wrongfully convicted of beating and raping the white female jogger Trisha Meili in 1989.

I had just returned to the United States after living in my father’s country of Trinidad and Tobago for three years, and the televised melodramas that would cement my coming-of-age as a black woman — Anita Hill testifying at Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings, the videotape of Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney King, the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase — had yet to happen.

Back in 1989, I was still a novice to the rules and rituals of American racism. But, like so many other African-American and Latino kids who lived in the New York metropolitan area, I was about to get a primer: The Central Park jogger case.


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