Netflix’s harrowing Central Park Five demands a new fight against racism

Ave DuVernay’s compelling Netflix mini-series When They See Us is a reminder that we need to change how the system works

By Rashad Robinson | The Guardian | June 3, 2019


The Central Park Five marked a political awakening for me. I was just getting to middle school, Jesse Jackson’s historic second run for president had taken place a year earlier, and we were all just beginning to make sense of Reagan and everything else that happened in the 80s.

It was scary. I saw the emotional gap between the circle of black folks around our family, who were immediately suspicious of the police and prosecutors – and afraid for the fate of those five boys – and the people in the majority white community around us, who were immediately gunning for racial revenge. I saw how the media both stoked and served the latter, and how the power establishment did, too.

That case helped me see why we needed to change how things worked.

There’s now an incredible opportunity for Ava DuVernay’s highly revealing and motivating retelling of the story on Netflix, When They See Us, to do the same for millions more. A partnership between DuVernay and the online racial justice organization, Color Of Change, connects viewers to the larger movement for prosecutor accountability through an activism platform, Winning Justice. Here we we can convert our outrage into real power through targeted campaigns that can bring about real justice: changing the way youth are treated in the system, ending money bail, ensuring transparency and more.

If the Central Park Five story proved one thing that should motivate us today, it’s that we must ensure prosecutors stand on the side of justice – and on the side of the people they’re elected to serve. We cannot let them serve as enablers of racist politics, corporate profits and increasing mass incarceration.

Taking on prosecutors is the next part of this story. Comm