Some time ago, a 15-year-old girl was found barely conscious in a garbage bag outside an apartment complex where she’d one lived with her family. Once she arrived at the ER at a local hospital, her burned, torn clothing was cut away to reveal that her body had been smeared with feces and various racial epithets had been written in charcoal. During a 20-minute interview with police, the young white teenager only spoke one single word; through drawings, nods of the head and shrugs the girl described a scenario in which three black men–all upstanding members of their communities, all well-loved by their families–had taken her to the home of one where she described being repeatedly raped and beaten. She said she had been burned by cigars then deposited where she’d been found four days later. Two lawyers and a prominent victim-rights advocate championed her cause in the press. “We have to stop this hateful violence against white people,” they said. “these black folks committing such horrible crimes need to be told that they cannot continue.”
But soon, the girl’s story began to unravel. Reports of her being spotted at a party with friends while she was supposedly missing and multiple inconsistencies in her story (including the racial slurs being written upside-down, as if she had to read them to write them, the incredible lack of any injuries, and evidence nearby suggesting the girl had done the tangible damage herself) led the grand jury to refuse to indict the three accused of the crime. They were later exonerated when the evidence more conclusively proved the girl was a liar.
Can you imagine the uproar if this scenario had played out as I described it? First, the black community never would have allowed themselves to be maligned along with three men, and rightly so. Also, however, the very instant the girl had been discovered to be a liar, they and the media would have been all over this like flies on a cow pie. There is no way this would have been allowed to go away quietly. White people all over the country who had cited this story in their attempt to convince the populace that this was a widespread problem would have been called race-baiters, hatemongers, and worse. Riots would have broken out. There would have been no escape from this fiasco by any person with white skin, whether they’d agreed with it or not.
But Tawana Brawley DID get away with it. As did her lawyer advisers, Alton H. Maddox and C. Vernon Mason–along with the Reverend Al Sharpton. Oh, Maddox’s law license was suspended and Sharpton was ordered to pay Steven Pagones (the prosecutor accused by Brawley in the case) $345,000 for defamation. But the public and the media let the group off scot-free. This happened in 1987.
The other two men accused by Brawley were police officers. Can you imagine the hell their lives decended into when these accusations were made? What kind of questions their wives had to ask, the taunting their children endured at school when this hit the news? The protests outside their homes? Brawley and her mother, Glenda, claim to this day despite the mountains of evidence that prove otherwise that they were mishandled by a supposedly racist system, and that white men in places of power just covered the incident up to protect Pagones and the two officers.
Why would Brawley make it up? Well, she’d been in trouble with her stepfather for staying out late with her boyfriend. Her stepfather, Ralph King, was a violent thug who’d stabbed his first wife nearly 15 times, and he was livid with her for refusing to obey his rules. According to many witnesses–including no less than Tawana Brawley’s boyfriend at the time–mom helped her fabricate the tale to avoid the same fate.
Today, Sharpton has not recanted his race-baiting statements or his handling of the Brawley case. Like the Brawleys, he maintains that Tawana was telling the truth and the case was up to the neck in racism. To hear him and anyone else involved today, it was all about the color of her skin, and the evidence be damned–three good men should be in prison.
Racism may still be alive, but things like this make others want to shut it out and not give a damn when REAL racism rears its ugly head.
In Part II: the Crown Heights Riots and the murder of an innocent Jewish man.