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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

When They See Us

Streaming on Netflix / Film & TV

On a fateful night in 1989, Trisha Meili—the young woman who would be known as the “Central Park Jogger”—was grabbed, battered, and raped. Even though there was no evidence of multiple perpetrators, five boys were arrested for the crime and in the ensuing media frenzy became known as the “Central Park Five.” The boys were not white, and as a consequence institutional racism came down hard. They were labeled “animals,” and were described as moving through the park in “a pack.” After brutal interrogation sessions, the five were sent off to juvenile prison; they remained in the record as sex-offenders until their exoneration in 2002. In this series, the director Ava DuVernay dramatizes the arrests and trial to powerful effect. In the first few minutes, she establishes the boys as normal kids. And she brilliantly shows how racism contributed to the injustice perpetrated upon them. —E.C.

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