Yusef Salaam, one of the Central Park Five, is speaking out, and has an article in The Washington Post. Some people will remember this, will remember when this happened, the divisiveness among people, the distrust, those who were already predisposed towards racism grabbing on to it, as if it were the final proof that no black man could ever be trusted around any woman, but especially not a white woman. One person who jumped the highest on the bandwagon of bigotry was Donald Trump. He took out a massive, full page ad, declaring their guilt, and demanding the return of the death penalty in very large type. Most people, after learning those young men had been ruthlessly railroaded, tortured, and wrongly convicted and imprisoned, would at least attempt to mumble some sort of excuse, then have the grace to shut the fuck up. But we all know that isn’t Asshole Donald’s way. No. Why do that when you can continue to insist you were right? As Mr. Salaam points out though, it’s much worse that when it comes to Trump. This man is, if not a bonafide maniac, a man with maniacal views and much worse solutions when it comes to all those he sees as problems.
During our trial, it seemed like every New Yorker had an opinion. But no one took it further than Trump. He called for blood in the most public way possible. Trump used his money to take out full-page ads in all of the city’s major newspapers, calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York.
During that time, our families tried to shield us from what was going on in the media, but we still found out about Trump’s ad. My initial thought was, “Who is this guy?” I was terrified that I might be executed for a crime I didn’t commit.
Thirteen years later, in 2002, we were exonerated. Matias Reyes eventually confessed to the rape and was definitively linked to the victim by his DNA. New York paid us $41 million in 2014 for our false imprisonment.
Trump has never apologized for calling for our murder. In fact, despite all evidence to the contrary, he’s still convinced that we were guilty. When the Republican nominee was recently asked about the Central Park Five, he said, “They admitted they were guilty.” In a statement to CNN’s Miguel Marquez, Trump wrote, “The police doing the original investigation say they were guilty. The fact that that case was settled with so much evidence against them is outrageous. And the woman, so badly injured, will never be the same.” It’s further proof of his bias, racism and inability to admit that he’s wrong.
When I heard Trump’s latest proclamation, it was like the worst feeling in the world. I felt as if I couldn’t breathe. Since I was 15, my life has never been my own. I had no control over what happened to me. Being in the spotlight makes me wary and self-conscious again. I am overwhelmed with a nagging fear that an overzealous Trump supporter might take matters into his or her hands.
Doing something simple like picking up dinner for the family or going to the aquarium takes on a whole new wrinkle. I’m always looking over my shoulder, keeping an eye out for people who stare too long. Like a soldier always on high alert, I feel as if I can never enjoy myself fully, with all of the adrenaline that comes with that. It’s a scary feeling.
In some ways, I feel like I’m on trial all over again. Like Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown, young men who were killed and then crucified in the media, I know what it is to be a young black man without a voice. Even though we were found innocent by a court of law, we are still guilty in the court of public opinion. That brings a certain kind of stress.
I realize, too, that I’m not the only victim. Trump has smeared dozens of people, with no regard for the truth. And he has backed a “law and order” system that would systematically target minorities. Trump says he would like to re-institute practices like New York’s “stop and frisk,” a policy proven to be unconstitutional and unjust. When we hear that he is going to be a “law and order president,” a collective chill goes down the spine of those of us who have been the victims of this “law and order.”
Black people across America know that because of the color of our skin, we are guilty before proven innocent. As a result, sometimes we lose the best years of our lives. Sometimes we lose our actual lives. We must not let this man ascend to the highest office in the land when he has always proven that he lets neither facts nor humanity lead his steps.
Full article at The Washington Post.