The police killer of Eric Garner is free. The police killer of Michael Brown is free. The police killer of 12-year-old Tamir Rice was a documented incompetent and a member of a racist Cleveland police department: he too is still free. Even more grotesque--American police departments do not keep accurate documents noting how many people they actually kill in a given year. America may not have the "desaparecidos" of her Southern neighbors; yet, the allusion is a chilling one that hints at the power of bureaucracies to make people disappear into nothingness because the state deem acts of violence against those individuals to be "within the law". In all, America's police are the primary means through which state violence is rendered on black and brown communities, as well as the poor. What should a person of color do when they encounter the police? How can you ensure that you, your loved ones, friends, and community members best survive an encounter with the criminal justice system--what is the new Jim and Jane Crow? In this, the fourth episode of Season Three, on the podcast known as The Chauncey DeVega Show, I had the great opportunity to chat with Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Mr. Nick Chiles. He is the author of the new book Justice While Black and current editor of the Atlanta Black Star newspaper. Written with attorney Robbin Schipp, Nick's new book JusticeWhile Black is both an excellent (as well as accessible) history of the racist origins of America's police system, and a invaluable step by step guide for how to navigate the entrapping maze that is the American legal system and the many ways that it can (and will) ruin the lives of those people it encounters. In our conversation, Mr. Chiles summed up the crisis and conundrum that is when the colorline encounters the American legal system as follows: just because it is within your Constitutional rights to do a thing does not mean that a given cop will respect those rights. In this episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Nick and I discuss what to do when a police officer stops you, how answering no more than the basic questions you are legally obligated to is the smart move, how families can cause chaos and trouble if you are arrested, the dangers of the plea bargain, the foolish hysteria around common sense "black respectability politics", tales of black lives ruined by the system, and if he watches "crime porn" such as The First 48 television show. Nick also clears up some of Chauncey DeVega's misconceptions about what he should do if the police demand to search his car.
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