African American Issues

Review: ‘The Central Park Five’ Is An Informative, Infuriating Affirmation Of America’s Racial Animus

This is less of a traditional review, and more of a lament. The one thing that struck me, and continues to stay with me long after seeing Ken Burns’ excellent documentary,The Central Park Five, is the fact that the titular gentlemen, now all adults, after serving lengthy sentences in prison for a crime they didn’t commit, are still fighting for justice vis-à-vis an unresolved civil suit, which they filed against the City of New York for their wrongful imprisonment, almost 10 years ago. Here’s what I’m referring to: In 2002, all convictions against the 5 men were dismissed due to new evidence (including DNA) that suggested a previously convicted murderer-rapist was the culprit. A year later, in 2003, a multi-million-dollar federal lawsuit was filed by the 5 men for malicious prosecution, racial discrimination and emotional distress – a case, if you’re intimately familiar with the particulars of the matter, or have seen Ken Burns’ least subjective documentary, you’d believe would be a slam-dunk and should’ve been settled almost immediately. Yet, 10 years later, the 5 men continue to wait for justice to serve them – the same so-called justice that rushed to convict them, despite the fact that there were holes in the evidence that was against them at the time; notably, and maybe most significantly, the fact that the DNA from none of the 5 men was found anywhere within the crime scene – an important piece of evidence that was glazed over, in favor of coerced testimony, without lawyers present, from each of the 5 teens. But that was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg; there was far more evidence that suggested they had nothing to do with the Central Park rape that took place in New York City’s Central Park on April 19, 1989, than there was that would incline any officer of the court or jury to convict them of it.

5 young black men raped a white woman. End of story; It’s a juicy headline, and one that conjures up and affirms both historical and present-day fears, stereotypes, and racial prejudices that many have held and continue to hold, all getting in the way of genuine progress. CONTINUE READING…

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