06/04/19: When they See Us episode 1
I’m curled up in bed in my Brooklyn apartment after an emotionally draining day so I thought, why not add insult to injury and start “When they See Us” (the new Ava Duverney mini series on Netflix). I had already cried twice at this point in the day so I was emotionally ready to handle what makes up most of African American History: Trauma.
As a history major and dedicated owner of this website I already know the story of the Central Park 5, although admittedly not in great detail. The story has taken on an extra significance since my move to New York because I am beginning to understand the racial landscape of a city so diverse, so populated, and in many ways geographically segregated.
I’ve only watched the first episode and I’ve already decided this is a series I will have to watch in spread out increments and not binge because I will be angry and resentful toward White people and I have to go to work tomorrow.
All joking aside, I think this is the medium History has to take. Visual, thought provoking, emotionally draining, gut wrenchingly real depictions of what went on in America. Stories like this, as popular as they are in their time, die quickly in the collective memory. Thrown into archives and textbooks and places where the impact weakens and those negatively involved in can comfortably forget. I appreciate Ava so incredibly much, not only for her talent but her dedication to telling the stories of black people, provocatively, and unapologetically real.
Speaking from my limited time of experience writing this blog, telling Black stories is hard. Emotionally, I find myself so invested into these women’s stories, I see myself so clearly in them. I feel their highs and I internalize their lows. I can only imagine how emotional re-creating the most lurid parts of our history is. My goal, and what I imagine Ava’s is also, is not only to inform but incite rage, thought provoking conversation, and ultimately change. We CAN NOT brush over this stuff.
To all of my Black people who do not want to look into the past because it is too painful, I want you to know those feelings are completely valid. This information should not be consumed constantly or you will drive yourself crazy under the smothering weight of uprighted wrongs. Digest in small bites, come up for air when necessary, but never shut out the stories of the people that came before you.
To all my White people, immerse yourselves into this history. Shut up the voices in your heads that jump immediately to justifications and rationalizations for the insidious events of our American past and listen. If you are not in a constant state of rage along with your fellow POC, you are not only a problem but a benefactor of racism and therefore racist. Listen to Black people, if you want to be an ally, listen, learn, and take in all the history you have the privilege of never seeing yourself in.
To all my non-black POC, we are not in a competition of oppression. It is not who has it worse. Have sympathy for you colored brothers and sisters in the struggle and know our stories of pain do not detract from yours. Immerse yourselves in our stories (as I think Black People should do with yours) so that we can be better allies and advocates for each other.
Watch. Breathe. Process. Get angry. Take Action.