Culture

When They See Us and the Persistent Logic of ‘No Humans Involved’ | The Atlantic

Ava DuVernay’s miniseries about the so-called Central Park Five illustrates, with excruciating clarity, the consequences of dehumanizing language. The...

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.

Featured Image: Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us presents a gut-wrenching look at the real-life terror wrought by the pernicious, dehumanizing language often used to describe black and Latino teenagers. ATSUSHI NISHIJIMA / NETFLIX

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Written by Hannah Giorgis
Hannah Giorgis is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covers culture. [The Wriit-created profile was established to offer the proper attribution & credit for the featured Writer. The profile was created by Wriit and does not reflect the Writer’s association with the publication, and may be updated (claimed) by the Writer upon request.] Profile

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