When They See Us captivates Netflix audiences

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Cynthia Rossi, Staff Writer

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Over the summer,  Netflix released a limited series titled When They See Us directed by Ava DuVernay. The series follows the story of the Exonerated Five and the years succeeding their wrongful conviction in the year 1989. The show immediately became a huge hit as well as an outlet for five incredibly brave men to share their battle with racial discrimination. 

Teenagers Korey Wise, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, and Yusef Salaam had their childhoods ripped away when they were convicted of the rape and beating of Trisha Meili, a woman running in Central Park near the time a group of boys from Harlem were spending time there. Prosecutor Linda Fairstein is quoted in the series stating, “Every black male who was in the park last night is a suspect.”

The series also takes a closer look at Korey Wise’s story. Wise was not in the park the evening that the event had occurred, but was accompanying his friend Yusef Salaam as support during his questioning. However, as the interrogation commenced, Wise was also questioned. Wise spent twelve years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit and now speaks publicly about the injustices he was sentenced with and the pain he has experienced. 

Thus far, the series When They See Us has been nominated for seventeen Emmy awards. Actors Asante Blackk and Caleel Harris of the show were also added to the Hollywood Reporter’s list of “Top 30 Stars Under 18” for their phenomenal performances of Kevin Richardson and Antron McCray. Jharrel Jerome, who played Korey Wise, is receiving lots of praise from viewers for tackling the roles of both adolescent and adult Korey Wise. The show is definitely making its mark in the entertainment industry, but its success is no surprise to those that have followed Ava DuVernay’s previous work on the documentary 13th in which she confronts issues about the criminalization of people of color head-on. 

Student Riley Gardiner stated about the show: “[When watching the show], I felt really angry and sympathetic; disappointed that nothing was done and that I couldn’t do anything.” 

When They See Us has definitely succeeded in confronting issues about race and racial discrimination and making them a topic of conversation, rather than the elephant in the room. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” DuVernay’s latest documentary succeeds in breaking the silence and definitely has viewers talking about the important issue of racism in America.