If there is a story that is to be told- for its wrongfulness, for its inhumanness, for its unfairness, but also for its hope, and its faith- ‘When they see us’ is the one. It’s a straight-forward, strong, harrowing and a must-see narration of real lives who were wronged for it was easier and convenient to wrong them.
I never heard of the infamous Central Park jogger case, not until the release of WTSU. The trailer looked promising, and the series- it just makes you look inside of yourself and see the malignity in the heart that human, over time, has covered itself in.
Ava, the co-writer and the director, could have easily strayed from the linear path that this series needed. The “story” had all the essential elements- urgency, crime, suspense, New York, convictions, felonies, racism- that make a piece riveting. The whole narration (broken down in four parts) was reliable, hard-hitting and nothing over-the-top; if anything, it probably just went softer on some parts. WTSU is such a strong punch to one’s gut that I couldn’t let it go without talking about it. The eventual aim of the series was to stir a conversation, which it fortunately has.
If I talk about the cast of this mini-series – all the actors have aced and able to convey what they ought to. Watching them was painful, watching the suffering and helplessness of actors, who were portraying the real lives, was agonizing; how did the real Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise and Raymond Santana, and their families, bear those unjust years is beyond my comprehension. All the actors did a fantastic job, but Jharrel Jerome, who plays the role of Korey Wise, is being patted on his back by everybody because it was only through his part that the life in the adult prison was portrayed. And, of course, because of the realness he brought to the character.
When havoc wreaks, one’s entire world starts falling apart. In those low times, even our parents, who we rely upon for strength, for protection, for everything, can make wrong choices which they only hope would turn out to be right. Families of all the five wrongfully convicts are straight out examples of such low times, of helplessness. The scenes at precinct say it all. After all, those parents are human too in the end, and all they can do too is do their best, which, sometimes, is just not enough.
The reality that the series shed the light on is nothing made up. Because when we see a human, all we tend to see is his color, his religion, his race. We see a human not for being a human, but for being either a Muslim, or a Black (no offence), or a Gay.
We have gotten these prejudices so ingrained in our head that it is just not natural for us to function without them. We lose the perspective, the vision of right and wrong, and go ahead with what our blinded self guides us to do. With prejudices, we tend to choose what we choose to be right, not what is right. Not that we are unaware of our own blinded side, some of us are well aware of that; it is just not that easy to get rid of those opinions and views that the society took centuries to build, to flourish, to stabilize. But it still isn’t too late to try to cut the roots of those racist, homophobic and chauvinist foundations. There still is a chance for betterment, for a fairer world.
After the Netflix release, police and detectives, who within days had solved the case then, for the pressure from the media was huge and the victim was white while the rounded-up boys were of color, are counterattacking the straight-out distortion of the events that this mini-series is made up of. They still are of the view that the real attacker, who confessed to have committed the crime all alone, was just an accomplice to these five. That none of the minor was coerced to confess to the crime. That they played fair and just. They have to stick to their truth though, don’t they? Their “truth” had put four lives in prison for 7+ years, while one for 10+ years. Sometimes, we stick to our “truths” for so long that they just become us, and there’s nothing you can do about just being.
I do not sideline Trisha Meili, the survivor of the case in question. Being a woman, hearing to those details, I empathize with her and many like her. But to convict innocent teenagers, merely 14 and 15 at the time, based on confessions they were coerced to make without any adult around, was that the justice served? Weren’t those five the victims of the situation too? They paid a price, a part of their life, for something they weren’t even guilty of.
When you send an innocent to prison, among criminals, he either changes or dies. It takes away the identity, the life out of a person; when finally out, while some at least pretend to have recovered, some cannot even do that. It just leaves a hole in the heart, in the soul, for ever.
This series, this story of the exonerated five is not just about them, this story is the reflection of USA’s society, of India’s society, of numerous other countries’ society. Don’t get hold up on the idea of who is wrong and who is right in the Central Park jogger case, because it doesn’t matter now. Look at what it represents- the racism, the failed justice system (which somebody has rightly said is the wrong name for the system), the prejudiced society. Minorities might differ from county to country, but the behavior, the attitude, the prejudices that we hold against them are the same – being born with a specific color, in a specific race should never have been the criteria of what it is today; it should never have been the criteria for anything.
The title of the series- I could relate to it the moment I got to know what the series was about. There couldn’t have been a better title for it. It not only goes well with the entire story, it says much more than just about this story.
When they see us, what do they see? A human? Or a Black? Or a Gay? Or a Latino? Or….
Have you watched WTSU yet? If you haven’t, do you plan to now? What is your opinion on the issues that this case represents?
IF YOU ARE A FIRST- TIME VISITOR OF MY BLOG, DO REFER ‘First-Timers‘. IT WOULD HELP YOU IN EXPLORING THE PLACE.
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