Sunday, 8 March 2020

TV review: Time: The Khalief Browder Story, Paramount Network (2017)

This is journalism so the story is messy and atypical. There are no neat resolutions in this six-part series, and there are no perfectly good guys (though there are some perfect villains). But there is suspense in each of the 45-minute episodes.

This is a show about courage and conviction. It was originally produced by Spike TV, the target audience of which was young men. Harvey Weinstein’s company was involved in the production. It includes archival footage as well as interviews and dramatisations.

Khalief Browder was a 16-year-old secondary school boy who, at 2am when police stopped him on a New York street, said he was coming home from a party. On account of an accusation made earlier, by a man who said someone had tried to steal his backpack, the cops took Khalief to the police station. He was then jailed pending trial for three years, including months in solitary confinement.

I won’t say much more about the story for fear of spoiling it for those who might want to see the show, but this case is an almost ideal one to demonstrate how an entire system is geared toward harming a class of people. Slavery might have died and the Jim Crow era replaced by a system of law enforcement that continued to penalise black men, but while though those bad, old days of the 70s are gone, ‘The Khalief Browder Story’ tells us that discrimination persists in the United States of America.

It shows, in detail, what happened to one African-American boy who got on the wrong side of the law. It is brilliant journalism because even if racism wasn’t the motivation for the abuse Khalief experienced, the system that allowed him to be jailed without trial for so long needed exposure.

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