The Central Park 5 and the Myth of the Black Male SUPERPREDATOR

In 2003 Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, and Korey Wise (best known as the Central Park 5) filed a lawsuit against the city for emotional distress, malicious prosecution, and racial discrimination. The foundation of the lawsuit filed by the five males of color was based on the handling of what is popularly known as the “Central Park Jogger Case,” in which the five adolescents were convicted of brutally attacking and raping a 28-year old White, female jogger in New York City’s Central Park. At the time of the young woman’s attack, the five boys of color (McCray, Salaam, Santana, Richardson, and Wise) were between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years old. Still, the five young men of color were rounded up in Harlem, after leaving Central Park on the evening of April 19, 1989, arrested, detained, questioned about, and charged with the brutal attack and rape of Trisha Meili. The four younger boys served seven years a piece in juvenille detention centers, whereas the eldest boy (Wise, who was 16 at the time of the attack) spent 13 years in an adult correctional facility. During this time period in New York City the tensions were high between Black communities and every other community in the city. Young Black males were believed, by the masses, to be responsible for New York City’s abnormal rise in crime and violence since crack-cocaine entered the city in 1984.

As a result of the misguided anger of the city’s masses the five boys of color were coerced into giving written confessions and video confessions to Assistant District Attorney Linda Fairstein, who had allowed the investigating detectives to remain in the room during the video confession. Richardson had been struck by officers in the face and all five adolescents had, individually, been promised freedom if they would agree to act as witnesses in the cases. The boys were fed various pieces of information gathered from the crime scene and made to invent stories about what occurred that evening. The problem with this is that none of the details from any of the five stories matched.

In fact, when the judge overturned the five convictions after a serial rapist (Matias Reyes–known as the East Side rapist) confessed to the 1989 attack and rape of Trisha Meili, New York City District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau’s office released a statement in which it is acknowledge that nothing about the confessions made any sense and that there were obvious discrepancies in the handling of the “facts” provided by the scared teens. Unfortunately for the five boys of color, at the time of the two trials, Ms. Meili had no recollection, whatsoever, of the attack. And, even though there was zero DNA evidence linking the adolescents to the crime scene or the crime scene to the adolescents–to include a lack of DNA matches between the boys and the semen collected at the scene–the public was so outraged at the despicable nature of the crime that these significant case discrepancies went unnoticed by journalists, law enforcement, district attorneys, defense attorneys, judges, and even jurors.

This is normal.

In the United States of America it is completely normal to criminalize the Black and Latino male. In the United States of America it is completely normal for a young, Black male (who is without any criminal record) to be stopped, frisked, detained, questioned, arrested, charged, and convicted of a violent crime–especially when that crime is perceived to have been committed against White American sensibility. In the United States of America it is completely normal for the justice system to wrongfully convict a Black male of a horrendous crime, realize an atrocious mistake was made, overturn the conviction, and then wait over eleven years to finally compensate the Black male for the time that was stolen from him–that time quite often being the majority of that Black male’s youth. This is normal because America thrives on the idea that the young Black male is a superpredator.

That is right. America is convinced that the Black male is overly obsessed with violence, acquiring property through theft, excessive expressions of anger, and the ravishing of the White woman’s innocence. And, because young males (of all races, religions, creeds, etc.) often socialize/travel in groups, our Black males are labelled wolves–pack animals that prey on the weak and unprotected. SUPERPREDATORS. In the newspapers, the Central Park Five called a wolf pack and citizens were warned to beware. The relatively timid young men were made into monsters by the media, the district attorney’s office, the NYPD, and the public ate it all up. The public was open, and ready to believe, the idea that five young Black males had stalked, attacked, and raped a defenseless White woman who was merely exercising her right to jog in Central Park. The public was all too willing to accept that these adolescents were capable of such brutality and offered to remorse for their actions. In fact, each time the young males were up for parole they were denied by the parole boards on the bases that none of the boys of color ever expressed any remorse. SUPERPREDATORS.

Long before Africans in America had been freed by the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution Black males were labeled superpredators and the public was reminded to be vigilant about preserving the innocence of the White female, who every Black male was supposed to need to ravish. Slaves who’d engaged in consensual sex with White women, pre-13th Amendment, would be lynched by mobs. Once Africans had been “freed,” in America, the belief that the Black male was a superpredator hell bent on ravishing the White woman became frenzied. White men would cloak themselves in sheets and ride into the night, on horses, in packs to protect the womanhood of White women throughout the south; they named themselves the Ku Klux Klan and their primary function was to protect the purity of the White woman. This is where the George Stinney, Jr (14 year old Black boy convicted of murdering two White girls and executed by electric chair) and Emmett Till (14 year old Black boy lynched for supposedly whistling at a White woman) come into play.

Because the vast majority of Americans believe that Black males are capable of the most horrendous crimes then labelling Black males superpredators becomes natural. So, how many convictions need to be overturned and how many Black males must be exonerated postmortem before America realizes that it has a serious problem with Black males? How long before America stops labeling ALL Black males drug dealers, thieves, rapists, and murders solely because of the melanin in their skin, the fullness of their lips, the kink of their hair, and the width of their noses? When will our brothers, our fathers, our cousins, our uncles, our grandfathers, husbands, and our sons stop being labelled superpredators?

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