Exonerated 5’s Yusef Salaam On Black Trump Supporters

The Central Park Five, now known as the Exonerated Five, knows firsthand about the cruelty and racism of our current president. 

Just weeks after Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, and Kevin Richardson were falsely accused of raping a white woman in April of 1989 in New York City’s Central Park, Trump took out a full page ad in The New York Times calling for the children, all minors at the time, to be put to death. Each of them served between five and 12 years in prison and were all exonerated by 2014.

Now, according to polls, Trump is gaining ground with Black men as he runs for re-election for President Of The United States. At the Republican National Convention, a number of Black men — including Kentucky attorney general Daniel Cameron, who is responsible for the fact that the cops who killed Breonna Taylor have not faced consequences — endorsed Trump and spoke on his behalf.

While promoting his young adult novel Punching the Air, which is available now, Yusef Salaam, who went to prison at 15 and served seven years, spoke about Black Trump supporters.

During an interview on SiriusXM Urban View’s The Clay Cane Show, Cane cited that  16 percent of Black men with a college degree voted for Trump in 2016 and reports of more inroads with Black male voters.

The 46-year-old father of 10 said, “I think that when we look at the wording that Donald Trump has put out there in the world, ‘What do you have to lose?’ We’re at war, we are being oppressed. We are being murdered in the streets. There was a saying on, NPR New York, I’ll never forget, it said, ‘Me today. You tomorrow.’”

He continued, “The worst thing about the experience that we are collectively experiencing is that there are far too many of us who don’t believe that it will happen to them. Unfortunately, when they become a part of the choir it becomes too late. I’m disturbed about anybody who looks like me, giving support — when we look at the landscape of what’s happening in America, and sometimes even in the world, we’re the ones that are being pushed to the margins.”

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Salaam also had a message for non-voters, “I want us to first understand and reconcile with the fact that we are in a system called America and that system utilizes voting. We could imagine that it happens a different way, but unfortunately, that is our reality. The worst thing that we have to understand is that as people of color or people who have been marginalized, they bet on us not participating so much so that even in school systems, they predict how many jails they need to build based on the fourth and fifth grade reading and math levels. Something happens at that time that begins to tell young people, especially young, poor people and people of color that they are not worthy, that they are worthless, and they begin to move throughout their lives. As if they’re a mistake.”

He also added, “Imagine this, in the history of voting, there has never been 100% participation. There’s been a concerted effort for the people who have been relegated to second class citizenry because of the criminal system of injustice, that they will never participate in their own freedom, justice, and equality through the voting process. I want us to understand that for people who say, ‘I’m not going to vote because they steal your vote’ or ‘there’s no real good candidates’ or whatever the excuses — non-participation is participation, the system will continue without you and your non vote is a vote for whatever we get.”   

In 2014, all five of the men were exonerated and eventually received a $41 million settlement from the city of New York. Another man, Matias Reyes, eventually confessed to the crime.

As recent as 2018, Trump refused to apologize for calling for their death, saying, “They admitted their guilt. If you look at Linda Fairstein, and you look at some of the prosecutors, they think that the city should never have settled that case. So we’ll leave it at that.”

Watch the interview below, which includes the co-author of Punching the Air, Ibi Zoboi. 

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