Kalief Browder died as a result of the policies endorsed and empowered by you Mr. Bloomberg. As Mayor of New York City from 2002 to 2013, you not only presided over the arcane and ineffective policing method known as “Stop and Frisk”, but you also ramped up its use to unprecedented levels. Despite the fact that it overwhelmingly targeted the African American and Latinx population, you championed this tactic as one of the most useful, and unbiased tools that the NYPD had to fight crime. Well Mr. Mayor, we both know that isn’t true. We both know that every single credible data source shows two irrefutable facts: first, that stop and frisk does not work, and second, that it disproportionately targets communities of color. That is part of your legacy sir, and I cannot, in good conscious, let you sweep that part of your political history under the rug with a few halfhearted “I’m sorrys”, and the hiring of Michael Nutter as your National Campaign Chair.
Not being able to go back in history and change the past is a reality we must all face. Which means the hurt that folk of color suffered under your administration cannot be undone. However, there must be an acknowledgement of that hurt, by you Mr. Mayor, before healing can begin, and before we will even start to consider throwing our collective support behind your candidacy for President. You must articulate the harm this process did to us. You must quote, with unwavering clarity, the numbers that show the hundreds of thousands of black and brown folk who were harassed via stop and frisk. You must admit that in the year 2011, under your mayoral leadership, the practice of stop and frisk reached an all time high of well over 600,000 people stopped. And you must admit that nine out of every ten folks stopped, were completely innocent.
And then you must say the name Kalief Browder.
You must stand in front of a crowd of African Americans and talk to them about Kalief. You have to tell them that in 2010, NYPD officers stopped him for no other reason than the weaponization of his skin, and because of that black skin, he was arrested, and charged with a crime he did not commit. I want you to tell them that there was very little evidence against him. Also talk with them about his family’s inability to pay three thousand dollars for bail, which meant that Kalief Browder would spend the next three years on Riker’s Island. Tell them that two of those years were spent in solitary confinement. Tell them of the numerous times that he tried to kill himself while he was there. Look these mothers and fathers in the eye and illustrate to them the horrific violence that he had to face on a daily basis by both the inmates, and the officers. Tell them how finally after three years in what could only be described as a living hell, all charges were dropped and he was released with not even so much as an apology. Tell them he was only sixteen years old when your officers arrested him.
Then, after all that, tell them he killed himself.
And finally admit to those black and brown faces looking back at you that had it not been for the policy of stop and frisk, Kalief Browder would very likely still be alive today.
Understand Mr. Mayor, you don’t have to do this because I want to punish you. But you have to say his name because you want us to vote for you. Which in essence, means you want us to trust you. You want us to believe that you understand the harm your policies did to us. You want us to move forward believing that you are now an advocate for us. A supporter of criminal justice reform. A believer in the need for better policing in communities of color. You ask us to trust all of this, despite the fact that your history screams the opposite. The only way you can even begin to silence those screams is to say his name. Look us in the eye, and with the sincerest of contrition, say the name Kalief Browder.
Certainly, the narrative of white supremacy that has been articulated by our current Commander in Chief must be defeated come November. But we will not replace one racially insensitive New Yorker with another. Therefore differentiate yourself by showing the mark of a true leader: Not infallibility, but the moral fortitude of a person who will acknowledge her or his errors, apologize for them, learn from them, listen to the voices of those adversely affected by them, and pledge to never make them again. Do that, along with saying the name Kalief Browder, and you greatly increase your chance of garnering our vote.
This isn’t a request Mr. Mayor. It’s non-negotiable.
Select Stacy Abrams as your running mate, and you even further that chance!
Until next time,