Ava DuVernay’s miniseries about the so-called Central Park Five illustrates, with excruciating clarity, the consequences of dehumanizing language.
The New York City teenagers Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, and Antron McCray were not born in the wild. The boys, who were all arrested in 1989 after a 28-year-old white woman was brutally raped and abandoned in Central Park, called the sweltering metropolis their home. Their world was one of concrete and cookouts, basketball and barber shops. Before their arrest, the teens crested through their city with youthful ebullience. They were “just baby boys.”
But in the days following the rape of Trisha Meili, the teens—ages 14 to 16—transmogrified into a “wolf pack.” They became “savage.” Meili, who became known as the “Central Park jogger,” was often characterized as their “prey.” The flurry of media attention reached a galling crescendo when Donald J. Trump, then a local real-estate mogul, purchased full-page ads in four New York publications calling for the return of the death penalty so that the boys could be executed.
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