Recently a friend of mine recommended Serial Podcast to me. The first season of Serial aired last fall 2014 and ended up one of the most popular podcasts in America. The series investigates a murder of a young teenage girl back in 1999 Baltimore, Maryland, and her ex-boyfriend was charged and found guilty of her murder, sentenced to life.
I knew the premise of the story when I started listening to it, but it wasn’t until I completely finished the first episode that I realized that in this wildly popular real-life murder mystery series, the murdered teenage girl and her convicted ex-boyfriend were actually both Americans of Asian descent.
Hae Min Lee was a popular senior girl at Woodlawn High School, part of the lacrosse team, manager of the wrestling team, and a top student at the school’s magnet program. As you can probably guess from her name, she is of Korean descent, likely second generation as her mother speaks little to no English. When she didn’t show up to pick up her little cousin from school one Friday afternoon, the search was on for her as a missing person, and sadly, her body was found six weeks later at a park in a shallow grave.
Her ex-boyfriend was Adnan Syed, a popular senior boy at Woodlawn High School who was on the football team and also top student at the same magnet program Lee was in. You can also probably guess from his name that he is of Pakistani heritage, also from an immigrant family. He is Muslim. Syed and Lee dated but had broken up about a month before she disappeared. He is currently serving life in prison.
Obviously, you can see how racial profiling can have a role in this case, and in my opinion, it actually does, but not in the sort of overt racism that’s easy to spot. It’s more of an underlying theme that has colored the way in which many of the actors in this dramatic tale of real-life strife have played out their parts. This actually is quite representative of the nature of this case–it’s very complicated, full of ambiguities, and addictively difficult to get a clear answer.
After the series was over, it continued on in real life, as Syed’s case recently was granted a chance at getting a new trial. I personally found the series fascinating and highly recommend it.