It’s 2019. Donald Trump is the U.S. President. Racism and prejudice seems to be very evident in society. Women are losing rights to their own bodies. Wars are still erupting around the world. We are one comment away from North Korea unleashing their mass weapons of destruction. What a time to be alive! We are at a point in history where social awareness is at an all time high, and past and current injustices are being brought to light. Information readily available at the touch of our fingertips.
This month, Netflix released an original limited series called “When They See Us.” A series based on the true story of the Central Park Five, which took place in New York City in 1989. For those who are unfamiliar with this story, it is about five teenagers ranging from ages 14-16, who were wrongfully accused of beating and raping a Caucasian women in her late 20’s, among other charges. Four teenagers were African American and one was Hispanic. I think it is important to mention races and ages for the simple fact that the investigation was not carried out properly. One can assume that this was due to discrimination. These teenagers endured police brutality. They were questioned and coerced without a guardian present, leading to signed waiver of rights. Ultimately, this led to their downfall. They received sentences ranging from 5 to 15 years; they served between 6 to 13 years, collectively, for crimes they did not commit. They were just kids. I have to admit, it was a painful and difficult series to watch, but I feel it was equally important to watch. It’s a harsh realization and a major reality check that simply cannot be ignored. If you have not seen this serious, I strongly urge you all to check it out. I give fair warning, it might emotionally affect you.
I have always been aware of the disadvantage that people of color hold in society. I have never been blind to the discrimination and prejudices that occur. More and more stories of police shootings and brutality continue to surface. It has stirred an uneasiness within me for my safety; an indescribable anxiety and worry specifically for the men in my life. Originally being from NYC and of Puerto Rican descent, I have two nephews who are young adults and live there. Who experience and witness tragedies more often than some of us have ever endured. My sisters and I fear for their safety everyday. I have three more nephews that are growing up in that environment and sadly, will become aware of the injustices as they grow older. I am engaged to an African man, and with that alone, the uneasiness hits closer to home. Every time he steps out of the house, particularly at night, I become uneasy. If I can’t reach him and he is home later than expected, I automatically think the worst. It’s sad to say that my usual first two thoughts are that he has either been involved in a car accident, or he has been arrested. Every single day that he is away from me, at any given time, I fear for his safety.
This past weekend, that anxiety became a reality. He was doing a late night music performance. After the performance, some unfortunate events occurred, and he was on his way to the hospital to support a friend. Around 3:30 am, he was on his way back to me. He called twice but I missed his calls. Around 4:30 am, I woke up and realized he was not home. I called him to get an update…no answer. I called him repeatedly from 4:30-5:30 am, worried sick, creating all sorts of scenarios in my head. The panic continued to build each phone call he did not pick up. I called every friend I could think of, friends that he might have been with. Anyone who could offer any kind of information to ease my mind. I googled local car accidents, I searched the arrest inquires for Hillsborough County. All I could think of is how I missed his phone calls and something must be wrong. It was not like him AT ALL to not answer my calls, or even be out that late at night. After finding no information, I decided there was nothing more I could do. I fell asleep praying for his well being. About 15 minutes later, I received a phone call from him. He was pulled over, for a claim of a faulty light over the license plate. The police searched the car thoroughly and let him go once they found nothing. I’m not sure how a faulty light coincides with a car search…I’m just happy that he was safe and able to come home.
I’m not sure if people of color will ever feel safe in their own country. I’m not sure if they will ever be given a fair chance in society. I will never understand how five teenagers of color were not given a fair trial and were coerced into a false confessions, with no substantial evidence to prove that they committed the crimes. Furthermore, I will never understand how a Caucasian man like Ted Bundy is given multiple trials, able to represent himself, and allowed to do research in the library freely, without handcuffs. The treatments are completely different and it is so blatantly obvious. How can you overlook that? Some people may not agree with my opinion, and that is okay. It is solely my opinion and I don’t represent the people in this country. But I refuse to ignore certain situations that continue to surface. I can’t ignore that fear.