The horrific ordeal that was inflicted on five Harlem teenagers by a criminal justice and corporate media lynch mob in 1989, has come back to haunt the former lead prosecutor, Linda Fairstein,in the autumn of her life. Ava DuVernay's magnificent Netflix series on the prosecution of the Central Park Five has sparked renewed calls to publicly shun and condemn Fairstein, who oversaw the railroading and wrongful imprisonment of kids who were guilty of nothing but being Black in Central Park at roughly the same time that a white woman was raped. The white public immediately pronounced the boys guilty of rapacious "wilding" -- a crime peculiar to young Black men in the imaginations of white people. Fairstein and her prosecutors made sure that the mob's verdict stuck, and the Central Park Five spent six to 13 years in prison. But in 2002 another man, an imprisoned murderer and serial rapist, admitted that he was the attacker, exonerating the Central Park Five, who were finally awarded a $41 million settlement in 2014, when they were all middle-aged.
Linda Fairstein was well-rewarded for her prosecutorial zeal. She became a darling of the upwardly-mobile-white-women-in-high-places-movement. Fairstein was honored as a fighter for the rights of victims. In her circles, it didn't seem to matter that she had victimized poor Black kids and whole communities of color in pursuit of guilty verdicts and political points. After the exoneration of the Central Park Five, a petition was circulated demanding that Fairstein be fired from Columbia University Law School, but she still lectures there.
"The whole U.S. empire has been constructed on a great fiction of white supremacy and Black and Native American savagery."
Apparently, Americans don't know who the bad guys are until they see them on film. So, until Ava DuVernay's Netflix series hit the small screen, Fairstein was allowed to carve out a late-life career writing crime novels. And, isn't that grotesquely poetic. Because the U.S. criminal justice system indeed, the whole U.S. empire, has been constructed on a great fiction of white supremacy and Black and Native American savagery. The natives and Blacks have always been "wilding." It is the founding doctrine of the nation, embedded in the words of the Declaration of Independence, which curses England for stirring up the savage Indians and encouraging the slaves to revolt. The U.S. has been at war for its entire existence, at home and abroad, and it has justified those aggressions by demonizing those it has attacked, exterminated and enslaved. White Americans have created a national identity out of race-based warfare and color-coded justice. Separated from their European roots, many whites would be lost without the cloak of their fictitious American history, full of lies about their victims and about themselves.
Linda Fairstein, the prosecutor, told lies for a living about captured Black men and boys long before she wrote her first novel. Now she's out a favor, but white supremacy remains embedded in the criminal justice system, in U.S. foreign policy, and in white Americans' sense of their place in the world on top, and always right. Not guilty"of anything"ever.
I'm Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.