The Central Park 5
The Central Park 5 was a case in which a white female jogger, Trisha Meili, was brutally attacked and raped in the North woods of Manhattan’s Central Park on the night of April 19, 1989. The victim was left in a coma for 12 days. An estimated 30 juvenile males were in Central Park that evening, five of whom were caught. Four were African American and one Hispanic. They were apprehended and charged with assault, robbery, riot, rape, sexual abuse, and attempted murder relating to attacks on Meili and others in the park that night.
Before the trial, the FBI tested the DNA of the rape kit and found it did not match any of the tested suspects. The five were questioned and held for 18 hours without parental consent, and they were forced to give written statements confessing to this crime. Before their parents had a chance to intervene, they were forced to sign all their rights to an attorney away simply because the boys wanted to go home and grew tired of the process.
Too Many to Count Have Been Wrongfully Convicted
We have heard countless stories of young black males that have been exonerated and given settlements for being wrongfully convicted. These once minors served 5- to 15-year sentences for crimes they did not commit with no eyewitnesses or DNA evidence. Their written statements contradicted each other and were used against them to convict them. This leaves me to wonder, in this broken system that targets black males, how many more are behind bars serving time for a crime someone else committed. In a time when DNA and forensics are available, the fact that they had no DNA match didn’t matter in the Central 5 case.
Mass incarceration has been so socially concentrated that America is no longer incarcerating certain individual criminals; it is incarcerating whole social groups. Nowhere in the world incarcerates at the rate at which America incarcerates black men. As of 2003, as shown by the U. S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, about one in three American black males were expected to go to prison during their lifetime (as opposed to 1 in 17 white males). One in nine African American children have an incarcerated parent.
America has chosen to continue to deprive a historically oppressed group of its liberty. This group's liberty in the United States was never firmly established from the beginning.
African American Parents Must Prepare Their Children for This Broken System
As African American parents, we must break this cycle. We must educate ourselves and our young children about this broken system from the beginning so that they do not become future victims of it.
Parents must educate themselves on the laws of American soil and know that they are prime targets. Knowing your rights and knowing the laws is the first step to breaking the cycle. Not being able to afford lawyers has hurt African American communities in poverty who continue to be targeted.
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Plan to have talks and lessons with your child about crime and self-protection. Kids and the Law is a book funded by The California Bar Foundation that helps parents prepare their juveniles and teens for the laws of the land. There are many similar books that you can access with a Google search on the keywords "children" or "kids" and the law in your state.
As adults, we must also be educated on the system, and how not to become victims. We must know our own rights, and what certain terms mean, such as "felonies" and "probation." There are resources online, and this is vital to the African American community. We must attempt to save our own lives and the lives of our children with preventive maintenance starting now.
We have more African Americans in for-profit prisons working as free labor than there were slaves. This statistic alone should alert every parent that the system was built to keep our group enslaved under the 13th Amendment.
How many more innocent children like the Central Park 5 must be targeted with no penalty given to law enforcement before our community takes action?
How many more unarmed black men have to get killed for us to be motivated enough?
How many more African American mothers as single parents have to raise boys to be men who will be targeted by this broken system?
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2019 Kimika Foster