Civil rights attorney Ben Crump says in his new book, “Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People,” he’s holding a mirror up to America’s face.
“This is empirical evidence of how you was killing us. Killing us softly,” he told a crowd gathered Monday night at WHYY’s studios.
He said his memoir presents factual evidence that the criminal justice system is purposefully killing people of color. Crump insisted white children with criminal records are given second chances when facing judges, while children of color are easily convicted of life-changing “trumped-up” felonies.
“If you are a convicted felon, and you have served time in prison, in many states you can’t even get life insurance, it’s like you are the walking dead,” Crump said. “They just have not given you the death sentence.”
About 80 people gathered, several holding copies of his memoir. And although attendees traveled from within and outside Philadelphia, they all shared a common understanding — that the fight against criminal injustice has been a long, long struggle.
Associated Press reporter Errin Haines interviewed Crump and also highlighted his work on high-profile cases such as Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and several others.
The high- and low-profile cases Crump has taken proved one thing to the civil rights attorney —that there are two justice systems, depending on if you’re white or black. Gregg Meister, who sat in the second row, agreed.
Meister said the event facilitated a powerful talk that all ears needed to hear, but he couldn’t help but notice the majority of the room was filled with people of color.
“White people live in a different reality than black people do,” Meister said. “So white people need to understand that.”
Gary Bryant also attended the conversation Monday night, and applauded Crump for his leadership.
“We need more people in positions like him to stand up and speak up,” Bryant said. “We have to fight for change.”
Bryant, father of two black college-educated sons, said he has become passionate about criminal injustice and Crump’s work since the Trayvon Martin case, which began in 2012. He said he fears for young black men’s future in today’s society.
Crump said his memoir will pave the way to ensuring that black and brown children are protected in the future by law enforcement, instead of targeted.
“When this racist criminal justice system is trying to define who our young people are,” Crump said, “we have to tell them over and over again, ‘No, no, you still are the best we have to offer. You still have redeeming quality.’”
Crump reflected on several other cases, telling audience members his memoir was in perfect timing with the current political climate. The civil rights attorney said there is a brighter side to the challenges they face against the Trump administration.
“This is also a great opportunity to make progress because of this administration,” he said. “We get to make a vivid, glaring case of why we cannot be comfortable when we think about all the injustice [that] is going on in the world.”