When They See Us: A Historic Perspective On Racial Inequality

Five young teens become trapped in a nightmare when they are falsely accused of an attack in New York Central Park in 1989. Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise, Raymond Santana and Kevin Richardson would later become victims of the inequality of the justice system.  

When They See Us is a sobering look at racial inequality within the American justice system.  In the Netflix four-part series, the young men and their families go through hard times from being coerced, harassed, abused, lied to and grilled by the police. The five young men were prosecuted and convicted, all without credible evidence.  

Antron McCray was 15 years old when he was arrested for the attack. He was tried as a juvenile and was convicted of rape and assault. McCray was handed a sentence of 5-10 years and would end up spending six years behind bars. 

Yusef Salaam was also 15 years old when he was questioned by the police for the attack. He was convicted of rape and assault and handed a 5-10 year sentence. He would go on to spend 6 years and 8 months in jail. 

Korey Wise’s story is the most tragic of the group. When his friend, Yusef Salaam, was called in for questioning by police in the aftermath of the attack on Meili, Wise decided to come with him to the station for support. While the other four accused were all minors, Wise was 16 at the time, which meant he could be interrogated by police without a parent or guardian present. 

Wise also suffered from hearing problems and learning difficulties, making it easier for him to be pressured, coerced and manipulated. 

When he was convicted of the rape and assault of Meili, his age also meant that he did not go to a juvenile center but an adult prison. He ended up spending 12 years behind bars, during which time he suffered horrific violence and abuse, as well as lengthy periods in solitary confinement. 

Discrimination is present within the courts because minorities and people of color are more likely to be denied bail, detained in jail or tried without counseling. In “When They See Us” the young men were questioned without having a parent or legal counsel present. When the adults were not present, the detectives lied to the young men telling them to confess so they could go home.   

Watching When They See Us shows a terrific visual of the inequality and the racial disparities in the American justice system.  



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