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Lawyer Ben Crump On 'Open Season'

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: There were more protests in Dallas today over the fatal shooting of a black man inside his home by a white police officer...


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: An unarmed black teenager was shot down by a white neighborhood watchman who claimed self-defense...


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: It's growing outrage tonight after an unarmed African-American teenager was shot and killed by police in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo...


Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Botham Jean - the lawyer who represented each of their families after their deaths is Ben Crump. In his new book, he argues these tragedies and those that affect so many other Americans of color isn't just a pattern of discrimination, racism and police brutality. The word he uses is genocide. And he joins me now from Columbia, S.C. Good morning.

BEN CRUMP: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can you explain why it's important for you to use the word genocide?

CRUMP: Certainly. This book "Open Season" is an extension of what many black leaders did in 1951 at the United Nations Convention. They issued we charge genocide, the crime of government against the Negro people in America. And they based that on the daily killings, rapings and lynchings of Negro people in America. And yet the courts and the law sanitized it over and over again. Nobody was held accountable. They legalized these atrocities. And that's what we think is still occurring today. And you don't have to take Ben Crump's word for it. You can go sit in the back of any court room in any city in any state in America.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There are a lot of people who work in the international sphere who say that genocide is a very particular word with a very profound legal meaning and that it is very important to keep that legal meaning and not use it for other issues in other cases that may be egregious but don't fall under genocide. What would you say to that?

CRUMP: I would say the case was compelling then, and the case is compelling now. I want to be clear. There are many ways to kill a person, as we demonstrate in this book. When you are a convicted felon and you are a person of color, it is like you are the walking dead. They just haven't given you the death certificate yet. You are caught up in a system that you can never get out of.

And, you know, it's one thing to kill us with bullets. I think it's even more horrific to kill a person, and they die a little every day because of the circumstances that you have made them live under. Think of the wrongfully convicted people in America and the death row statistics and how they correlate based on ratio dynamics. The quickest way to get on death row is literally to be a person of color and kill a white person. But yet when a white person kill a person of color, in many regards because of the racist Jim Crow "stand your ground" laws, they don't even spend the night in jail.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mr. Crump, this book, as you mentioned, doesn't just talk about the deaths of black and brown people at the hands of police. It talks about an entire system of injustice, segregation and racism, how at every turn black and brown people are sentenced more severely for similar crimes, are judged more harshly for behavior that would not be deemed criminal if they were white. This has touched your family. Can you tell me the story of Marcus and what happened when he was 13?

CRUMP: Yeah, and it's so personal. Marcus was my cousin who my mother and I and my aunt end up raising. He, like all young teenagers - they discover girls. And he started liking. And apparently, this little white girl started liking him back. And it became a major incident.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It is because he touched her in the lunchroom publicly.

CRUMP: He touched her on her butt. And for that there, they were trying to give him a record because her parents were insistent that the sheriff arrest my little - I call him my nephew. And so my aunt - I was out of town at the time - she had to do everything humanly possible with the help of my law partner to avoid Marcus for getting caught up in the system at 13 years old and for doing...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And the aunt had to beg the parents. And she said something quite shocking in the book - you quote her as.

CRUMP: Yes, ma'am. My aunt said that she felt like she was having to beg the plantation master for her son's life.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You quote a shocking statistic that on any given day, 10,000 children are housed in adult jails, many of them black and brown children.

CRUMP: Yes, and the fact that black men only make up 7% percent of the population in America, yet make up almost 50% of the population on death row correlates with them direct filing all these children of color in prison. And so we think to anybody who says, oh, you all are just exaggerating people of color, then they are not admitting that there is a problem that is leading to a genocidal situation because it's not their children being killed.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Ben Crump - his new book is "Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People."

Thank you very much.

CRUMP: Well, and hopefully this will give America, all Americans of all races a chance to confront our biases and do what Martin Luther King said. And when you see injustice, don't look away. Don't look away.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROD MCGAHA's "IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.