WHEN THEY SEE US
Written by ZenKC on June 13, 2019
Story By Chuck Tackett
“The fact of the matter is our young people are not seen as kids. From the schoolhouse to the courthouse, the images, and narrative that put our people in harm’s way is deep and serious.”
Color of Change
From the many years of watching Judge Judy on the television is the fact that several times she stressed to never plead guilty to a crime you didn’t commit. My Union, The Communication Workers of America (CWA) taught me to never sign the company’s “Code of Conduct” form saying I totally understand it. Trust me, several times as a local Union officer, Southwestern Bell Telephone would put that in my face when they either fired or done other forms of discipline to, an employee I was defending. They would always tell me your Union member signed this form saying they understood it. I tried warning my fellow Union member, but unfortunately, they trusted the Company, and not the Union, much to their detriment. As my mom used to say, “Some people just don’t believe fat meat is greasy.”
When one grows up as a Baby Boomer or Generation X person of color, you realize quickly that we couldn’t interact with the police, or other authority figures, the same way as White people our age, without the risk of being beaten with a billy club or shot. Police brutality in marginalized communities is far from being a new phenomenon, so I took Judge Judy’s remark as it doesn’t apply to us.
There’s a Facebook post that I love that goes “History is always told from the perspective of the oppressor, not the oppressed.” On May 31st, Netflix released a miniseries, produced by Director Ava DuVerney, called, “When They See Us.” The miniseries addresses the historical Central Park 5 debacle in 1989 that Trump was very much a part of.
For those of you who are unaware of this shameful, despicable, piece of American history, long story short: In 1989, a 28-year-old White female jogger was running in Central Park one night in New York City. She was brutally beaten, raped and left for dead. Five juveniles, 4 Black and 1 Latino, ages 14 -16 were falsely arrested, beaten and coerced by the police to admit to a crime they didn’t commit.
Four of the five juveniles, now middle-aged men, are Yusef Salaam, Kharey Wise, Raymond Santana, and Kevin Richardson. I don’t want to reveal too much about the story, because I hope you all will see it if you have Netflix as a service, or know someone who does, whom you could watch this miniseries with. All I will say is, this was the first time I heard the name, Donald Trump. I despised his trick ass then, as I despise his trick ass even more now in 2019. That mango colored serpent residing in the White House has a long tumultuous history when it comes to people of color.
Recently fellow LGBTQ brother Rashad Robinson, President of the activist organization, “Color of Change” was interviewed by news anchor Joy Reid, of the AM Joy show on MSNBC. Mr. Robinson was imploring listeners to watch the Netflix miniseries. He expressed, “It is important for people to watch because it shows all the different ways that the system, and the incentive structures of the system, are set up to put people in harm’s way, not to deliver safety or justice.
We have to tune into these things, but more than tuning into them, we all have to take the anger and the outrage and turn it into action. I too grew up in the imprint of the New York media, in Long Island. I saw the news stories, and I saw the news. As a 10-year-old, I saw those images, and it really did shape my early life on who I was, and how people saw us. I think what Ava has done here, has given us a real gift, an opportunity to see these young people as young people. To see how the system sets us up. She and Netflix have also done is be a partner with us at ‘Color of Change’. Folks can go to colorofchange.org, we have partnered with a platform, ‘Winning Justice.’
‘Winning Justice’ is a program around the country. We are taking on prosecutors to change the incentive structures, the power of prosecutors in this country. There are about 2,400 elected prosecutors. 80% of them run unopposed. They have broad direction. What you feel in this series happens every day in this country by prosecutors both Republican and Democrat. We have to take out prosecutors in many of these places. We have taken out prosecutors in communities, places like St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Dallas. We have to put people in office that will respect Black lives.
It is an ongoing struggle. We are just at the beginning. Part of the process is changing the way these offices do business. They are not transparent. They do not treat kids as kids. They do not deal with bail and other issues. They create a system where it is not delivering justice. It is about getting convictions no matter what.
That is why, for folks who are working this, we need to deal with police. We need to deal with the profiteers of the criminal justice system. We need to deal with the prosecutors, so if you are angry and outraged after seeing this, help us with justice.
I did a panel with Yusef Salaam and Raymond Santana, two of the Central Park 5. Yusef said something which stuck with me about the Donald Trump ad: The ad was calling for the death penalty, was almost a symbol of that era about trying to lynch them in Central Park. They have never apologized for that.
We’re working on a big report that is coming out at the end of the month that looks at TV shows about crime procedures, the representation of Black people in crime, and the representation of actual criminal justice. The fact of the matter is, our young people do not get seen as kids. From the schoolhouse to the courthouse, the images and the narrative that puts our people in harm’s way are deep and serious.
Once again, our communities want safety and justice. But in order for us to make justice real, we have to build more power. Everyone who was watching this I hope they were watching deeply. They will tweet about it. They will share it. They will thank Ava. Then they will take the energy from that and take action. Help us take action. Come to colorofchange.org and help us make justice.”
Chuck’s Chat operates under an open authority. Opinions and comments are always welcome. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org