'When They See Us' Actor Joshua Jackson Talks White America's Blind Spots
In April 1989, five black and brown boys were accused of viciously beating and raping a 28-year-old white woman in New York City's Central Park. The teens — Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise — would later be known as the Central Park 5 or the "wolf pack" who callously attacked the victim and left her for dead.
All five boys maintained their innocence, however, with little resources and coerced videotape confessions by the police, they were tried and convicted, spending about seven years in juvenile prison. Korey Wise, who was 16 at the time and the oldest of the group, was sent to Rikers Island where he spent 14 ferocious years enduring countless physical attacks. He often spent time in solitary confinement just for safety.
Wise had a chance encounter with Matias Reyes, the real attacker in prison, which resulted in the group's 2002 acquittal, and later a $40 million settlement from the city. Now, Ava DuVerny is bringing the story back to the forefront, this time from a new perspective: theirs. In the Netflix original four-part series, When They See Us, DuVernay chronicles their lives as teens all the way to adulthood, how the arrests and case affected them and their families, and the media and justice system's lust to convict five black and brown boys by any means.
Joshua Jackson, who plays attorney Mickey Joseph, along with co-stars Christopher Jackson and Blair Underwood were on hand to discuss the film's weighty issues. Sitting inside New York's Mandarin Oriental Hotel, directly (and ironically) across from Trump Towers (Donald Trump took out full-page editorials in four New York papers calling for the boy's execution) the 39-year-old spoke candidly about how easy it is for white America to not know.
"It is so easy to be blind as a white man, white person, inside of this society, to the constant drumbeat of oppression against [black] skin," Jackson said.
The actor, most recently known for his role in Showtime's The Affair, said as a white adolescent later an adult he was afforded a grace young black boys and men aren't given. "I remember the shift of being a suspect young man to 'I'm in my twenties now and I can pass by a bunch of cops and they can give me the head nod and smile, and that's new,' and then frankly success and fame changes that as well."
VIBE spoke with Jackson about the film and he candidly admitted the privileges white America has that he's now more aware of.