Last night I finished all episodes of When They See Us and I was overwhelmed but I looked calm.
Later on I was not calm inside. It was a delayed reaction.
The more I thought and read about the Central Park Five story, the more burning I felt in my stomach, my heart and my veins.
The series brought back several flashbacks in America.
When I first moved there, I was driving on an international license and I did not know I had to stop when the police car was flashing light behind me.
In Taiwan and England, the police cars are often flashing and that does not mean they are pulling you over.
I kept driving until the police car chased me into this dead end neighbourhood and nearly hit me.
I stopped and opened my door looking confused.
They were fuming and shouting at me: “Give me the keys and put your hands up.”
They asked why I did not stop and said they could arrest me for this.
I kept apologising for 10 times or so until they let me off with a warning.
They were extremely aggressive and angry. They did not seem to believe me when I told them I owned the car. I remember shaking in the car while they were checking my ID and car documents. I was thinking: oh noo I’m a foreigner studying with my student visa, if I get arrested this is going to ruin my future and how am I going to explain to my parents in Taiwan?
I was 18 years old. Prior to that, I never had any contact with the police.
I understand that I made a mistake of not stopping, but they did not have to treat me like a dog especially when I was extremely apologetic.
Looking back, I probably would have been arrested if I confronted them. That was how the young boys were pressured to obey and lie in Central Park Five story.
Another incident occurred when I was also around the age of 18.
I parked outside of my friend’s house waiting for him with another friend. Some neighbour called the police on us. The police came to check our IDs, my car and asked what we were doing etc. Both of us in the car were ethnic minorities. I was so confused at that time because we were doing nothing. We were simply sitting in the car waiting for our friend outside of his house.
I probably would have got in trouble if I refused to comply with the police.
The reason we were scared to confront the police or the justice system was because being an ethnic minority and non-citizen immediately put us at a more disadvantage than the rest and we could not afford the thought of them ruining our future even if it meant letting them treat us like shit when we shouldn’t have to.
Today I am angry remembering these incidents. I also cannot help but wonder if the experiences would have turned out different if I was White.
I cannot imagine how terrifying and traumatising it was for those five young boys considering the extent of shock and fear I felt at that time.
I cannot bring myself to accept that the story in the series actually happened in history.
All of their youth was spent in those cells.
All of their parents lived years after years without their children.
How was there not a single person who witnessed what had happened to the boys during interrogation and stood up for them?
The $41 million they received would never make up the emotional trauma and physical abuse they received throughout the years. Some things just can’t be bought with money – one is happiness and another one is time. They could never go back to live a proper 14 year old school life.
I’m not sure if I can even find the right words to describe how I feel about the event. ‘Angry’ does not capture the degree of my heartbreak.
Of all the unfair things in the world, race is the most difficult one to make sense.
All I can say is if you can watch When They See Us on Netflix,
try and put yourself in one of their shoes
imagine yourself as a 14 year old going through it
ask yourself what feeling safe means to you at that age
and what it means to them or if it even means anything at all