Hall 1101-351

Albert Daddah
Dr. Carrie Hall

The History of “Wilding”

There are many words that the younger generation use today and don’t really know the history of them. We tend to adopt words from the past and use them without knowing where they came from of the significance the word had in the past. One of those words that we use today is the word “wilding”. The younger generation uses this word very often but it is important to know its dark history.

When I use wildin or it is used around me it is not in such a serious way. Normally it has nothing to do with criminal acts. But that does not seem to be how the word was always been seen. In addition when looking the word up in different dictionaries it has different meanings. Besides acting crazy or extreme, Wildin can also mean the practice by a group of youths of going on a random spree of violent criminal activity (dictionary.com). I don’t use the “wildin” often. It doesn’t really feel natural when I say it. If I were with my friends and they or we were wildin I just say “what the fuck are y’all/we doing”. I’m kind of like a dad around my friends. They do dumb stuff and I tell them to stop. So wildin isn’t really in my vocabulary but almost everyone I know use it a lot. My sister uses it the most and all my friends use it. I also live in a predominantly black neighborhood where everyone uses it since it is most commonly used by black people, so I am familiar with the word and the meaning it has in my community also amongst my generation.

Although the word wildin used now is usually used in a light hearted manner it is not always used in that instance. There is actually has a history of crime. The word wildin has been used in criminal cases to describe criminal actions. The act of “wilding out” can pertain to acting in a criminal manner. In 1989 five boys were accused of attacking and rapping a woman in Central Park, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise, and Yusef Salaam. They were accused of committing the crime because they were in the park that night. Around that time there have been many reports of teenage boys fooling around in the park. Trisha Meili was raped and left in the park for dead. She fell into a coma for 12 days. The five boys were caught and automatically blamed for the crime. They were also blamed for many other crimes that occured in the park by other teenage boys. The five boys spent between 5 and 20 years in prison. They were exonerated in 2002 when Matias Reyes confessed to sexually assaulting the victim.

The word wilding was used to describe the boys actions. The word was used towards african americans and hispanics because 4 of the boys were black and one was hispanic. It was a huge controversy and issue when the case was occurring. It even caught the attention of Donald Trump unfortunately. He believed that the boys were guilty and deserves the death penalty. He even went as far as paying to put out ads and stories to support his idea. It states in the article
Donald Trump and the Central Park Five: the racially charged rise of a demagogue “He paid a reported $85,000 to take out advertising space in four of the city’s newspapers, including the New York Times. Under the headline “Bring Back The Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!”. It amazes me that he would do that much to have teenages killed for a crime that had minimal evidence against them. Even after the actual rapist confessed Donald Trump still believed that the boys were guilty. I would have expected an apology at least.

After spending years in prison for a time they were wrongly convicted of they were finally exonerated in 2002. However they still spent a good chunk of their lives in prison for no reason. They later won a settlement from New York City for $41 million dollars. That still cannot compare to the years they spent behind bars. In 2014 they demanded another $54 million for the damages they endured. I believe they deserve it for all they were put through.

It was such a big deal that the word “wildin” was mainly associated with that crime and was not used often afterwards. It was a word to describe violent crimes rather than having fun as we use it today. It wasn’t until the 2010s that the word made a comeback and began being used by teens again. It’s surprising that this word we use commonly can also mean something violent and we don’t even know or realize it.

The word used today among younger people is not as serious as we think it is but it can mean something different to others and people older than our generation. The way we see and use the word is different for others. We may think the word is okay or light hearted but it can mean something like performing criminal acts. It can also get us in trouble using a word that we don’t know the true meaning of or the history of. That is why it is important to know the history of the word we use today. It is good to know the history of words to see if we want to use the word or use it around others. Not knowing the history of words can sometimes get us in trouble so we should really be careful of the words we use around certain company. So next time you used a word maybe think about the history of it and its past.










Article for The New York Times

How our fear of “wilding” colored the Central Park Five case