When They See Us is a Netflix series based on the true story of the Central Park Five. The series focuses on the mistreatment of the five juveniles by the justice system. The Central Park Five were five teenage boys that were hanging out in the evening in Central Park, New York City. The case occurred in 1989, and on the same night a white woman named Trisha Meili had been jogging at the park. She was found severely beaten and raped and was in a coma for 12 days. The victims accused were five young boys, Black and Hispanic, all around the ages between 14 and 16 years old.
Photo of the Central Park Five and the Actors that played them in the series
Left to right: Antron Mccray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise.
The young boys were convicted of a crime they didn’t even commit, just because of their race. The teenage boys were robbed of their whole lives in just a second. They ended up serving, “between six and thirteen years in prison, eventually won a $40 million settlement from the city” (Morales). These innocent boys were only targeted for this crime because of their race. They were immediately shown as thugs and criminals in the media after the arrest. New York Police officers arrested them and they were taken to the station. These young boys were scared out of their minds because they didn’t know what they did. Lawyers claimed they were coerced into admitting to a crime they didn’t even commit. All these boys were under the age of 18 and yet were interrogated by police officers without their parents being present, which is illegal.
Injustice, race, socioeconomic status and discrimination are all main themes of the show. The series shows the injustice these young boys faced during this horrible time. The show also hits on the fact of how people of color often don’t have the knowledge of how the law works. Some even have problems with legal representation because they can’t afford to hire a good lawyer. In other cases, like the Latino communities, many encounter injustice because of the language barriers they may face. This is presented in the series, when the parents of the accused are flooded by the process of the law, and had difficulties with knowing how to properly support their children.
The oppression these young boys faced reminds me of the topic we discussed in class intersectional identity. The boys were poor disadvantaged New York boys who weren’t treated as equal as others. They were Black and Hispanic young boys and that makes them minorities. Minorities have always been seen as dangerous and criminal like to the white communities. The justice system sough to oppress them in their broader community because of their skin color, socioeconomic status, and the fact that they were minorities.
I think the creator of When They See Us wants us to takeaway the discrimination that many face based solely on their race and socioeconomic status. The creator wants us to see the effect that the wrongful convictions had on these innocent young boys lives. The creator focuses on showing the injustice that young minorities face in the American legislation and how one wrongful conviction can change a person’s entire life.
Morales, Ed. “Perspective | ‘When They See Us’ Is a Reminder of the Racial Hysteria That Gripped NYC in the 1990s – and That Still Lingers.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 7 June 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/06/07/when-they-see-us-is-reminder-racial-hysteria-that-gripped-nyc-s-that-still-lingers/.
By: Haylie Blankenship, Max Bruggeman, and Samar Suleiman
Max Bruggeman: All right.
Max Bruggeman: Hello listeners, my name is Max Bruggeman and I’m here with Samar and Haylie and today on “Yo is this is racist, homophobic, ect, we’re gonna be talking about Asian hate and history of Asian hate and we can also touch on the homophobic things have been going on. In particular we’re gonna be talking about gay marriage and the right for people who are getting a gay marriage to enter a private business and be served. And um so without further ado let’s get started with the history of Asian hate. Does anyone want to get started?
Haylie Blankenship: So, I know this was kind of yours and Samar’s idea um whenever we were kind of working on getting things together you kind of brought up the violence, shooting some history stuff. What is some history on the Asian hate and racism in there?
Max Bruggeman: Yes, so I’m actually a history major so i’ve learned a lot about the systemic racism going on with Asian Americans, and it goes way back to when Chinese immigrants began emigrating to the United States; back when we were actually recruiting Asian Americans to help build the transcontinental railroad and people out West would hire these Asian immigrants for cheap labor. And um but eventually there was only about like what less than 1% of the California population was Asian Americans. But there was this kind of like fear that oh my gosh Asians are coming to the country at an alarming rate, we need to block these Asians from coming to the country. So in 1882 Congress actually passed the Chinese exclusion act, and this was the first immigration restriction policy that we’ve ever had in our country.
And this just shows that our willingness to discriminate against something that we do not understand, like this just came from straight fear there was never. As we know, today there was never really a chance of China coming to take over the west coast, but this was just a fear of people at the time, and also this continued with World War two, this has more to do with Japanese Americans. I’m sure we’ve all heard about the internment camps in California after the bombing of Pearl harbor. This is another example of how just out of straight fear like we are willing to discriminate against people who just look different from us, even though they may have lived in the United States, their whole entire lives.
And now, today, like we see even with Donald Trump calling the coronavirus the “China virus”, now that like just fear, how the president can stoke fear into people and pushing people into making discriminatory acts.
Haylie Blankenship: Yeah, most definitely.
Samar Suleiman: Yeah, I mean I could also pick up on that. With current events like with COVID-19 cases still being at an all time high a lot of Asian Americans have experienced the highest rate of hate related crimes. I mean, In Portland, Oregon alone, within the last week of January at- least 13 businesses had rocks thrown at their windows. Older people are targeted for just walking down the street, just because they’re Asians. So much hate has been directed towards Asian Americans, since the start of the pandemic and, as you mentioned Max, former President Donald Trump he expressed a lot of racism towards Asian Americans, since the start of the pandemic. He referred to the virus as the “Wu-Tang” virus and obviously a lot of his supporters gained strength because they have a higher ranking member of the government, publicly saying this, and so they feel as if they had the strength to come out and attack people just because of their race. And, like, I guess, a lot of you guys have also heard. A couple of weeks ago, another tragic and horrific shooting occurred in Atlanta. Eight innocent lives were lost due to this hatred. The suspect was Robert Long, he was charged with eight counts of murder and he targeted three suburban spas, in which he was a customer at two. Just the fact that some of the police officers were defending his act of terror and stating that “he had a bad day.” Like there’s no excuse for what he did, he clearly targeted those spa’s because the majority of people that worked there were Asian.
Haylie Blankenship: That’s insane.
Samar Suleiman: I know, like, I mean having a bad day isn’t an excuse to take out your anger on someone I guess you don’t particularly like.
Haylie Blankenship: I know. One of my biggest issues with racism is the fact that it’s the United States it’s not like obviously we’re called America, but who specifically is American, if not all.
Samar Suleiman: I know, right.
Max Bruggeman: This kind of reminded me of like when I first wrote my injustice sample It reminded me of de Beavior “Second Sex” because, like she mentioned that no group ever sets itself up as the one without at once setting up the other against itself so like this kind of reminded me of like especially an 1882 white people in California just wanted to be the dominant group out West basically. And so you’re not going to make yourself the dominant group in the United States without pitting yourself against the others, and the others in this case is Asian Americans. I found that very interesting.
Samar Suleiman: Right, yeah, and like going off of what Max said, like relating it I guess to class content, I think of Simon de Beauvoir’s concept of the “One” versus the “Other”. And in this case, Asian Americans are being outcast for being the “Other” based solely on their ethnicity. No one should have to feel a sense of exclusion from their society, just because they’re different.
Haylie Blankenship: Especially, which I don’t remember which module it was, but when they talked about the Asian community and whenever they come over like they bring Chinatown and they put it into play, but then, some of them feel forced to change, according to our society.
And I don’t feel like that’s fair to them, because they can put their own culture into ours and it’s not going to ruin anything it’s just going to, I would say change for the better.
Max Bruggeman: I completely agree it’s interesting because you think like that these types of things are getting better with time, like before coronavirus I know personally. I never really thought of Asian Americans in America being necessarily discriminated against, like violently, but like this is definitely opened my eyes, like look how just-just simple rhetoric and like misunderstanding and ignorance can just lead to such hatred.
Haylie Blankenship: Which the ignorant part we can kind of put an add on the like gay wedding cake. And since homophobia is a huge issue. Um. So I don’t remember what year it was, I actually did this systemic injustice. So a few years back, there was this bakery and they refused to make a wedding cake for this two male couple that we’re going to get married. They basically said no we’re not gonna make you a wedding cake, but you can buy anything else in the bakery.
I can’t tell you how much that boiled my blood, my skin, because that’s just that’s such ignorance to me not being able to just accept them. They’re just people like us. So if a male and female can go and get a wedding cake, but like two females or two males or like that’s just injustice to the LGBTQ community.
Max Bruggeman: Yeah I completely agree with you, I just want to ask like where do you think that this? I know we just talked about Asian hate and that we think that it comes from mainly comes from ignorance and rhetoric, where do you think that the homophobia conflict comes from? You think it comes from a religion? Or are you thinking it also comes from ignorance or something else?
Haylie Blankenship: So for this, he claimed it was on his religion that’s what was his claim on it, and why, because there’s a whole lawsuit on it, and he said that was based on his religion, but there are so many different like it can be religion, it could just be stuck on tradition. Um.
The kind of ignorance of not being able to accept, being closed minded, there’s a multitude of reasons. But I don’t know. Samar what’s your stance on it?
Samar Suleiman: I mean, I guess, I think it’s just honestly ignorance, like, in this day and age, like there is going to be different people than who you are, and there’s going to be different beliefs than what you believe. At the end of the day, I guess how you pointed out. If a man and a woman can go up and get a wedding cake why can’t, I don’t know, a woman and a woman- or whoever- get like a cake for their wedding day? It’s their special day they also deserve to be happy, they also deserve to get, I guess, the sense of belonging in their community, and no one should have to be discriminated against, whether it be race, gender, ethnicity or whatever. Like you know what i’m saying?
Haylie Blankenship: Yeah, I agree with that.
Max Bruggeman: Also it has become so political as well. My I was, I was recently hanging out with my uncle, my great uncle actually, and one of his uh my cousin, so his grandson, is gay but he’s a republican and I know he talked to me about how it’s like hard for him to like stand for or like support politicians that that are against like gay marriage, but he also has a gay grandson and it’s just I don’t know I don’t like how it has become a political issue it’s more of a human rights issue like, I don’t understand why we can’t just put this to the side, this can be something that we agree on, this doesn’t have to be a partisan issue. It’s easier to say that than actually make that happen. I feel as if there is other things that like political leaders can debate on other things other than just whether or not gay people should have rights, you know?
Haylie Blankenship: Right. I know we’re running low on time, but I agree with that, like a big issue is like they’re trying to put the LGBTQ community with the politics part of it with like they’re trying to narrow it down to a political thing of Democrats versus Republicans and that’s just not fair to me. Like religion and stuff, that kind of it’s the United States of America. And I don’t even know where I left off my bad. But like LGBTQ community isn’t part of politics in any form, or fashion.
Max Bruggeman: I can just touch on that. It’s also very regional. I know that we’ve discussed this before we hopped on but what if you come from like a rural town where like, If you’re not exposed to people who are gay then like I can see how it’d be harder to understand that, like the gay couples like want to be together, but like when you move to a city like Columbus or i’ve also always been from the city, so I was also previously from Cincinnati. But like when you’re not around it, I feel like it’s just it’s hard to understand how like people could discriminate against people who, who are gay.
Haylie Blankenship: I don’t know if y’all know where it is but i’m from Meigs County. It’s kind of like a small village; it’s a county but where I’m from Pomeroy it’s a village and it’s just more I guess the smaller Community you have it kind of feels like it’s more narrow minded. It doesn’t feel like you can be as accepted if you’re not the same as everyone else. But that was my kind of growing up life.
Max Bruggeman: Samar, you want to add anything?
Samar Suleiman: I don’t really have anything to add right now.
Max Bruggeman: Oh, okay, well, I think we can wrap it up, then, if no one says anything else to add.
Haylie Blankenship: Yeah that sounds great um I think we had a nice chat today about all the injustices with the Asian racism, and homophobia with the wedding cake.
Max Bruggeman: Those are great examples, great examples, but obviously in this class there are so many different forms of systemic injustices that have been rooted within history.
Even in 2021, as even though we’re making changes to overcome those, we still have to make note of these injustices, so we can correct them in the future.
Samar Suleiman: Yeah.
Max Bruggeman: Awesome, well, i’ll see you guys later, thank you.
Black Panther is a film directed by Ryan Coogler. Even though the film was created from a fictional character of the Marvel Comics, the movie still had a huge impact on African American history.
The film is about a Prince who takes over his nation after the tragic death of his father. T’Challa returns home to be crowned King of the Wakanda nation. He is faced with many opposing tribes that didn’t want him as King, as they claimed he wasn’t ready for that position of power. Wakanda is a nation that didn’t accept help from any other country nor did they meddle in any other countries affairs. The main theme of the movie was the challenging power structures. T’Challa faces a lot of hate for his position, specifically his fight with Killmonger. Killmonger uses his royal bloodline to challenge the new King. He ends up winning and being crowned King of Wakanda. As King he attempts to topple the Western dominated world order and the structures that oppress black people worldwide. Though overthrowing powers is always a controversial topic in history, it is always an important of a successful society.
I wanted to connect the movie Black Panther with the successful party called the Black Panther Party. The Black Panther Party was founded in 1966 in Oakland, California by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. The main purpose of the party was to patrol African American neighborhoods to protect residents from acts of police brutality. The Black Panther Party came into the national spotlight in May of 1967, when a small group of it’s members marched as a protests against the pending Mulford Act. The party viewed the legislation as a political plot to oppose the organization’s effort to fight police brutality in the Oakland community. The Black Panther character was born in the Civil Rights era, and he reflected the politics of that time. The character symbolized courage, challenge, grace, and rites of passage. The Black Panther is a character that matters the most in the film industry because he is the best chance for people of every color to see a black hero. That in itself is its own kind of power.
Cawthon, Cliff. “Black Panther: The Marvel Film’s Meaning Runs Deep.” March 7, 2018 | Real Change, Real Change, 16 Mar. 2018, www.realchangenews.org/news/2018/03/07/black-panther-marvel-films-meaning-runs-deep.
Smith , Jamil. “How Marvel’s Black Panther Marks a Major Milestone.” Time, Time, time.com/black-panther/.
With Covid-19 cases still at an all-time high, Asian Americans have experienced the highest rate of hate related crimes. In Portland, Oregon alone, within the last week of January, “At least 13 businesses had rocks thrown through their windows or were otherwise targeted.” (Williams). So much hate has been directed towards Asian Americans since the start of the pandemic, and yet not a lot of coverage on the news. Former president Donald Trump expressed a lot of racism towards Asians since the start of the pandemic. One incident that struck out the most was when he kept on referring to the Covid-19 virus as the “Wu Tang Virus”. Many of his supporters gained confidence due to this and thought that it was acceptable to outcast Asian Americans. They had ammunition from a higher ranking member of the government. In an article published by the New York Times, Former President Donal Trump defends using the racist term, “It’s not racist at all… It come’s from China, that’s why”(Katie, et al). Political officials can be one of the main reasons for systemic injustice. They have a great influence on their supporters, and whatever they say can be taken very seriously. Their words can fuel the fire of racism in the world.
Yet this racism still has yet to stop. A couple of weeks ago, another tragic and horrific shooting occurred in Atlanta. Eight innocent lives were lost due to this hatred. Robert Long was charged with eight counts of murder. He targeted three suburban spa’s, in which he was a customer at two. The fact that some of the police officers were defending his act of terror and stating that he had a “bad day”. There is no excuse to what he did, he clearly targeted those spas because majority of the people that worked there were Asian.
Relating this to class content, I think of Simone de Beauvoir’s concept of the the “One” vs the “Other”. In this case, Asian Americans are being outcasted for being the “Other” based solely on the their ethnicity. No one should have to feel a sense of exclusion from their society just because they are different. The hate directed towards Asian Americans is affecting their population drastically. Old and young Asian Americans are being targeted, and some even losing their lives. The violence needs to stop, and we are one step closer to change. Immediately after the Inauguration Day, President Joe Biden signed an executive order condemning anti-Asian discrimination (Fang). The executive order signed gives us hope that this hatred can all go away. No group of race deserves to be singled out due to something that isn’t even their fault.
Kale Williams. “Asian-Owned Businesses Hit in More than a Dozen Acts of Vandalism in Portland’s Jade District.” Oregonlive, 11 Feb. 2021, www.oregonlive.com/crime/2021/02/asian-owned-businesses-hit-in-more-than-a-dozen-acts-of-andalism-in-portlands-jade-district.html.
Fang, Marina. “Joe Biden Signs Executive Order Condemning Anti-Asian Racism Related To COVID-19.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 26 Jan. 2021, www.huffpost.com/entry/biden-executive-order-anti-asian-racism-covid-19_n_600f30e0c5b600a279622501
Rogers, Katie, et al. “Trump Defends Using ‘Chinese Virus’ Label, Ignoring Growing Criticism.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 18 Mar. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/us/politics/china-virus.html.