For 25 years, “Black America’s Attorney General” Ben Crump fought against racial injustice.
Many know him as the attorney who represented the family of George Floyd, who was murdered by a white police officer in Minneapolis in 2020.
But his clientele includes relatives of many other high-profile cases in the United States, from Trayvon Martin, the teenager killed by a neighborhood watch coordinator in 2012, to Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old medical worker killed by police in his own home.
Jacob Blake, Randy Cox, and Patrick Lyoya are just a few of the other victims, injured, or killed by U.S. law enforcement whose loved ones he fought to help.
“Police have been killing black people for hundreds of years and had no financial responsibility whatsoever,” he said Civilian: Ben Crumpa Netflix documentary about his life and career.
“I want to make it financially unsustainable for them to continue to kill black people unjustly.”
Now Mr. Crump has his sights set on healthcare, with a potentially landmark case against cosmetics giant L’Oreal in the offing.
The champion of civil rights has spoken The independent about what motivates him, the similarities between inequality in the US and the UK, and his hopes for the future.
After launching the Ben Crump law firm in Florida in late 2017, five years later his firm is receiving an average of 500 calls a day.
The high-flying lawyer credits his humble beginnings with fueling a desire to make his life’s work level the “playing field.”
Born in North Carolina to a single parent family, Mr. Crump attended an integrated school in a white neighborhood at the behest of his mother Helen, who worked as a local maid and at a Converse shoe factory. The young man found it extraordinary that he had the best facilities while the school in “his part of the city” did not.
“I remember my mother telling me that we have the opportunity to go to the best schools with the best resources thanks to Brown V Board of Education – and a lawyer named Thurgood Marshall.
“Just then I made the decision that when I grow up, I will fight for people in my community and people who look like me to have equal opportunities in life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness.
“Every morning, I wake up, I go to fight for equal justice under the law and justice for all.”
In 2021, Mr. Crump was included in the Time 100 annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, pleading cases of environmental injustice, banking discrimination and healthcare malpractice such as the upcoming L’Oréal case.
It’s been claimed that black women who use chemicals to straighten their hair are more likely to develop uterine cancer, and now dozens of people have banded together to launch a legal battle against the multibillion-dollar companies that create the products.
L’Oreal USA Inc and other makers of hair straightener products, including Motions, Dark & Lovely, Olive Oil Relaxer and Organic Root Stimulator, have all been sued for helping to develop, market and sale of “dangerous” products.
This follows the release of a US government study which found that women who reported frequent use of hair-straightening products were more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer as those who didn’t use the products.
Jennifer Mitchell, 32, is leading the charge as the first person to file a lawsuit in October 2022 through Mr. Crump, her rep.
The Missouri resident hoped to have disappointed children after he was diagnosed with uterine cancer and had to have a hysterectomy at age 28, after years of using chemical hair straighteners.
In a statement, L’Oréal said it was “confident in the safety of our products and believes that the recent lawsuits filed against us have no legal standing.”
Mr Crump described the matter as a “public health crisis”.
“If these statistics were for white women and more affluent young women who were twice as likely to develop uterine cancer and not be able to have children, then people would be sounding the alarm,” the attorney said.
“So why is it less of a public health crisis that predominantly affects black women in America? Society pushed black women to conform to European beauty standards by straightening their hair to look like Caucasian women.
After going through a traumatic health crisis, Ms Mitchell said her ordeal is far from over. “I have to worry about whether or not I’ll get him back, whether he’ll come back in a different form,” she said.
“Once you have uterine cancer, you can be more susceptible to colon cancer or breast cancer. A lot of people don’t know that.”
Eight other lawsuits were filed on behalf of black women against US companies that make hair straightening products. They are seeking damages to compensate the applicants for their distress and the economic damage of the medical costs.
Black women in the United States, who report using hair straightening products more than other populations, are more likely to suffer from aggressive forms of uterine cancer than other populations, and mortality rates are also higher in this group, according to the National Institutes of Health study. The research tracked data from 34,000 women for more than a decade.
“We must continue to tell our Black women and girls: You are beautiful, just as God made you; your hair is pretty, the way God put it on your head,” said Mr. Crump.
“The standard of beauty cannot be set for our women and daughters by white Europeans. This is the most critical thing we have to keep articulating. Otherwise, our children, young women and daughters will continue to put potentially poisonous chemicals in their hair and cause horrific health effects on their bodies.
“That’s why we filed this lawsuit. We think it’s significant, in the same way that the baby powder litigation has been very significant to Black women and Black women have been disproportionately affected by these multibillion-dollar corporations that put profit ahead of safety, particularly of women. of marginalized color,” Mr Crump alleged.
From disparities in healthcare outcomes to the criminal justice system and everything in between, Mr Crump is well aware of how systemic racism ruins black lives in the UK.
Just last month, he appeared alongside Jasmine Rand, a fellow civil rights lawyer who also represented George Floyd’s family, as a special guest at the Law Centers Network’s annual conference in the UK. The couple discussed the importance of dismantling entrenched inequalities.
“I think the race battle in the UK is not much different than the fight for racial justice in America,” he said. “I think that just as in America, our brothers and sisters in Britain are oppressed by a system that is biased in every way, and we have so much in common that we need to find ways to come together in solidarity to fight against racism and the tyranny of ‘oppression”.
Dealing with the trauma that often comes with his job, Mr. Crump tries to prioritize self-care as much as possible.
“I understand that we need to stay strong and focused for our customers who come to us for guidance. That being said, dealing with so many deaths and tragedies takes its toll on any human being and hence we must always remember that we are not invincible and we also need encouragement.
“I try to reach out to people like Jasmine Rand and others who represent optimism and hope for a better world for our children.
“Then I turn to my ancestors and my heroes… I enjoy reading and learning how they were able to deal with such tragedies and injustices on a daily basis. I try to lean on their examples to continue fighting for the future of our children.
“Whenever I am dismayed, I always think of my daughter, Brooklyn, and the other young people who will be the future of this country. And I conclude that it is always worth fighting.