“When They See Us” chronicles the true story of the Exonerated Five (formerly the Central Park Five), the five black boys aged 14-16 who were falsely accused, coerced into confessing without access to their parents or legal counsel, and wrongfully convicted of beating and sexually assaulting a white woman in Central Park in 1989. They each spent several years in various correctional facilities only being released after someone else confessed to the crime in 2002 and DNA tests confirmed his story.
One of the scariest thoughts I had while processing this entire situation was “this could totally happen here, today.” I live right outside of Baton Rouge, La in a quiet little suburb. We are a close knit community that is always holding fundraisers for various hardships that all families go through. We take care of everybody. The racial tensions in the heart of Baton Rouge have been on high alert recently due to some very high profile cases that have pitted the races against each other as well as pitted law enforcement against civilians. In some areas there are a lack of resources and that can create the perfect storm that ends in false accusations, false confessions, and wrongful convictions.
Even though we’ve come a long way, we have not come far enough.
I was three years old in 1989. I have absolutely no memory of the true events that took place. (Thank you for the original, Netflix.) My heart broke while watching this docu-series. Tears flowed relentlessly for these CHILDREN, these kids were somebody’s babies and my eyes saw my own privilege and it shattered my heart into a million pieces. There are moments that made me physically sick to my stomach and left me trembling with anger for these CHILDREN and their parents. I am a mother of two young boys. I couldn’t help but wonder “when they see us, when YOU see us, do you see an opportunity to pray for me raising these young boys into quality men?” I am in no way implying that the parents of these boys were not doing their absolute best to raise quality young men. I am humbly asking for the prayers of every stranger we encounter to help me get through each day and help these tiny humans learn how to be the men this world needs.
This story forced me to look in the mirror and ask myself “when they see me, when the world sees me, who do they see?” Do they see who I want to be, the person that I strive to be, the person that I regularly fail to be? Do they see me threaten my rambunctious four year old with my eyes? Do they see me lose it when the threat is ineffective? Do they see a thirty something white woman as a vulnerable target? Do they see my sunshine that I try so hard to brighten the world with? Do they see my smile, my offer of love and peace and unbelievable effort to get through each day with minimal meltdowns- from the kids and myself alike?
What about when I see you?
What do I see? What do I choose to focus on? Am I treating every single person I encounter with the same love and understanding and respect that I should? Am I treating others as I would have them treat me- or my tiny humans? Am I showing everyone the love that I want the rest of the world to show me? Or am I a little more on guard when I see you? Am I looking over my shoulder to see if you followed me because you smiled nicely but the world is a scary place so I got defensive? I certainly don’t have all the answers or solutions, but I know we still have a lot of work to do.
I still have a lot of work to do.
I understand that danger is out there. There are people with unsavory intentions that you can’t love their intentions into something else. With news and social media outlets it seems like the danger is everywhere, everyday, and y’all it is scary. There needs to be love everywhere. There needs to be greater love than the lurking danger. That is where I hear my name being called, that is where I can start, I can facilitate the atmosphere of love and understanding and grace within our little island of the world. I can love bigger, give more grace, shine brighter, and try harder to create more of the kind of world that I want my munchkins to grow up in. I hope you will start here with me!