Sense & Sensitivity

DEAR HARRIETTE: There is a new Netflix series called "When They See Us" that retells and visualizes the story of the Central Park Five. I remember hearing about this story while growing up, and I felt a deep sympathy for the boys who lost their childhood while falsely imprisoned.

The series has been getting a lot of praise and hype because of how well it captures the truth and how deep it goes. A lot of people are saying how heartbroken they are.

Even though I know the general scope of what happened, I know it is important for me, as an African American, to support the show and watch it. However, I am terrified of what it will do to me emotionally. I know that what these men went through should outweigh my emotions, but watching a dramatization of what happened, knowing how it ends, will upset me deeply. What words of advice can you give for people who are afraid to watch the film, or anything related to black trauma in this country? -- Afraid to Watch

DEAR AFRAID TO WATCH: Having watched the series myself, I can tell you that it is hard to witness the atrocities revealed in the film as well as the myriad ways in which entire families and communities can be devastated when individuals are wrongly accused and convicted of crimes. And yet, I call this must-see TV for everyone, not just African Americans.

Racial discrimination, police brutality and the ills of the criminal justice system are not new, but they should not be considered a given. Change begins when people stand up and refuse to accept these things as the norm.

I recommend that everyone watch this series. You can do it in a group, followed by a discussion of what you viewed. Your next step could be attending your local community board meeting to talk about these issues and learn how your community is treating its people of color. You can reach out to your member of Congress to learn what actions are being taken on a national level to combat racism. You can make your voice known. And by “you,” I mean all of us.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I always carry a handkerchief because my parents told me that it was proper. It has come in handy over the years. What I’m unsure about is what should happen to a handkerchief after I offer it to someone in need. A friend recently had a sneezing spell, and the only “tissue” available was my handkerchief. I offered it to her, but I have never gotten it back. Do I ask her for it? -- Bye-Bye Handkerchief

DEAR BYE-BYE HANDKERCHIEF: In a perfect world, your friend would launder your handkerchief and return it to you. You can ask her if she still has it, and if so, request it back. But one unintentional side effect of your good manners and generosity is that you may end up losing a handkerchief or two along the way.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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