In a healthy culture, the authorities would be driven by an indignant populace to seek immediate justice for the tragic death of Kalief Browder. Instead, most of the populace hasn’t even heard his name.
Sure, when you type “Kalief Browder” into Google it yields almost 1.7 million results. That sounds like a lot until you discover “Rachel Dolezal” has almost seven times that. And not to be outdone, “Caitlyn Jenner” has a whopping 60 times more.
It used to be stories of grave injustice such as Browder’s was the stuff of “60 Minutes” exposes and Pulitzer Prizes. Now they are an asterisk because we have come to prefer the freak show. Chasing stories that turn journalists into multi-media carnival barkers — and I’m implicating myself with that statement as well.
A friend of mine who works for Rand Paul’s presidential campaign sent me a text last week asking me my take on Browder’s death. I had to confess I had never even heard the name, and it’s actually my job to be informed about such things. Unfortunately, though, my attention was singularly fixated – along with most Americans – on the bearded lady on the cover of Vanity Fair. So I started doing some research on Browder, and couldn’t believe he wasn’t front-page news given the sorry state of race relations in the country.
Yet just as I was preparing to write about Browder this imploding culture of ours produced its next bearded lady: a white girl named Rachel Dolezal.
Ms. Dolezal appears to have concocted the most elaborate hoax to pretend to be black since Vanilla Ice. Like her muse, actor C. Thomas Howell in the ‘80s schlock film “Soul Man,” she dramatically changed her appearance to look like she was a different race and even made up a phony biography. Complete with what look to be numerous false claims of hate crimes allegedly committed against her. Ms. Dolezal fooled so many people’s politically correct confirmation bias she became a leader in a Washington state chapter of the NAACP.
And just like that we devolved from so-called transgender disorder to an even sillier transracial deception in a matter of mere days. Two completely contrived crises that serve no purpose except to feed the idiocracy its desired empty intellectual calories. Or what we call another week in our sprint toward Gomorrah.
I’m old enough to remember when these sordid tales were relegated to the cesspool of daytime television. They were lodged between Maury Povich’s paternity tests and Jerry Springer’s sex with farm animals and taken seriously by nobody with gainful employment. But alas, our bearded ladies have now achieved coveted victim status and gone mainstream thanks to the “right side of history.”
Meanwhile, there’s no justice and no peace for the Browder family. Theirs is a story that in a sane world would capture our attention until it was somehow resolved. About 100 people gathered at a vigil for Browder in Manhattan last week. It began with a prayer from the Rev. Jackie Lewis that included these words:
“We’re here to grieve. We’re here to grieve the loss of a particular life, Kalief Browder, who began to die the day he was arrested at 16, and incarcerated and held for 1,000 days without due process. He began to die every time someone injured him, tortured him, raped him, and isolated him. He began to die when his hope died. He began to die when the system failed him.”
Police reported having seen Browder, the youngest of seven children, taking a delivery truck for a joyride and eventually crashing it into a parked car. Browder insisted to police he was only witnessing his friends doing the deed, but he pleaded guilty nonetheless and was granted youthful defender status by the courts. He was given probation and that should’ve been the end of the matter. But just a few days before his 17th birthday, Browder was arrested again when a man accused him of stealing his backpack and hitting him in the face.
Browder was charged with robbery, grand larceny and assault. His friend and alleged accomplice was not incarcerated for the matter but Browder was because of his probation. His bail was set at $3,000, a sum his family could not raise. After his indictment, another judge ordered Browder kept behind bars without bail. He was sent to Riker’s Island, where he was locked up for three years without a trial.
This actually happened. No one disputes these facts. And it happened in America, no less, where you’re supposedly innocent until proven guilty. Where the Bill of Rights promises no person shall be “denied life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”
While at Riker’s, Browder spent two years in solitary confinement. Video footage shows him being beaten severely by a security guard with his hands tied behind his back, as well as an instance when Browder was assaulted by 10 other inmates. God only knows what else someone like Browder was subjected to in that harsh environment. He became so despondent he tried committing suicide on multiple occasions, and he twice turned down plea bargains because he wanted to stand trial to prove his innocence.
Eventually the charges were dropped when the police lost their key witness, which means Browder spent three years doing hard time without ever being convicted of anything.
This should outrage us, regardless of our politics, race or socio-economic status. That isn’t a justice system but a gulag. It should never happen here, and if it does “let justice roll on like a river and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
Browder never fully recovered from the time that was taken from him. He attempted suicide several times once he was “freed,” which means he was never really free at all. It would take a lot of time and grace for anyone to fully recover from such an ordeal. Time Browder no longer has.
Browder hung himself on June 6, not long after his 22nd birthday.
While 65-year-old celebrities are compared to Rosa Parks for choosing to mutilate themselves and self-loathing white girls with a penchant for dishonesty become household names, Browder becomes just another young, dead black male.
Becky Pettit, a sociology professor at the University of Texas, says more than one out of every six black men who should be between the ages of 25 and 54 today “have disappeared from daily life” because of premature and/or untimely deaths. They are gone from a black community that is in dire need of more husbands and fathers, and from a society as a whole paying a substantial price economically and socially for their loss.
I can’t help but notice some of those who have exploited racial tensions recently are strangely silent on Browder. For example, a column at the progressive Daily Kos noted we’ve yet to see a statement from President Obama. I’m sure our nation’s first black president will get around to it, right after he gets done praising Jenner on Twitter for his “courage” to remove his genitals in the “fight for LGBT rights.”
Bearded lady lives matter, after all.
(Steve Deace is a nationally syndicated talk show host and also the author of the new book “Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.” You can “like” him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.)