Thu 5 Apr, 2012 03:50 pm
One of the best ways to reduce modern Jim Crow against African-American men is to put an end to privately-owned prisons. They want them full to make profits and the states fill the owner's desires for lots of black men in their prisons. Black men are arrested far more often than white men for the same crime. They should be called Jim Crow prisons! BBB
The New Jim Crow - Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander and Cornel West Introduction
Publication Date: January 16, 2012
The New Jim Crow was initially published with a modest first printing and reasonable expectations for a hard-hitting book on a tough topic. Now, ten-plus printings later, the long-awaited paperback version of the book Lani Guinier calls “brave and bold,” and Pulitzer Prize–winner David Levering Lewis calls “stunning,” will at last be available.
In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. Yet, as legal star Michelle Alexander reveals, today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against convicted criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination—employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of educational opportunity, denial of food stamps and other public benefits, and exclusion from jury service—are suddenly legal.
Featured on The Tavis Smiley Show, Bill Moyers Journal, Democracy Now, and C-Span’s Washington Journal, The New Jim Crow has become an overnight phenomenon, sparking a much-needed conversation—including a recent mention by Cornel West on Real Time with Bill Maher&mdas;about ways in which our system of mass incarceration has come to resemble systems of racial control from a different era.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850).
Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Devastating. . . . Alexander does a fine job of truth-telling, pointing a finger where it rightly should be pointed: at all of us, liberal and conservative, white and black.
Alexander is absolutely right to fight for what she describes as a “much-needed conversation” about the wide-ranging social costs and divisive racial impact of our criminal-justice policies.
Invaluable . . . a timely and stunning guide to the labyrinth of propaganda, discrimination, and racist policies masquerading under other names that comprises what we call justice in America.
Many critics have cast doubt on the proclamations of racism’s erasure in the Obama era, but few have presented a case as powerful as Alexander’s.
—In These Times
Carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable.
[Written] with rare clarity, depth, and candor.
A call to action for everyone concerned with racial justice and an important tool for anyone concerned with understanding and dismantling this oppressive system.
Undoubtedly the most important book published in this century about the U.S.
A longtime civil rights advocate and litigator, Michelle Alexander won a 2005 Soros Justice Fellowship and now holds a joint appointment at the Moritz College of Law and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University. Alexander served for several years as the director of the Racial Justice Project at the ACLU of Northern California, which spearheaded the national campaign against racial profiling. At the beginning of her career she served as a law clerk on the United States Supreme Court for Justice Harry Blackmun. She lives outside Columbus, Ohio.
TWO READER REVIEWS
Review by Middle-aged Professor (NY'er living in Ohio)
Thirty years ago, fewer than 350,000 people were held in prisons and jails in the United States. Today, the number of inmates in the United States exceeds 2,000,000. In this book, Alexander argues that this system of mass incarceration "operates as a tightly networked system of laws, policies, customs, and institutions that operate collectively to ensure the subordinate status of a group defined largely by race." The War on Drugs, the book contends, has created "a lower caste of individuals who are permanently barred by law and custom from mainstream society." Mass incarceration, and the disabilities that come with the label "felon," serve, metaphorically, as the new Jim Crow.
The book develops this argument with systematic care. The first chapter provides context with a brief history of the rise, fall and interrelation of the first two racial caste systems in the United States, slavery and Jim Crow. Subsequent chapters provide close scrutiny of the system of mass incarceration that has arisen over the past thirty years, examining each stage of the process (e.g., criminalization, investigation, prosecution, sentencing) and the many collateral consequences of a felony conviction (entirely apart from any prison time) and how and why each of these has operated to the detriment of African-Americans.
The book also explores how the caste system Alexander identifies is different and not-so-different from Jim Crow, the many political and economic forces now invested in sustaining it, and how it has been rendered virtually immune to challenge through litigation.
The book concludes with an argument that while many particular reforms will be needed to change this system, nothing short of a social movement that changes public acceptance of the current system can solve this problem and offers critiques and proposals for the civil rights movement based on this analysis. Everyone who reads this book will come away seeing the War on Drugs and mass incarceration in a new light.
Review by Randall L. Wilson "Randy Wilson" (San Francisco)
I'm a white man and I carry with me the cultural legacy of racism. I know I'm not alone but I don't find many other white people who are willing to venture into this uncomfortable territory and own up to our own racism. And while I've had a few conversations about race with black men, I must say I feel like I'm venturing into dangerous territory - how do I transcend the privilege I've had as an socio-econonmically advantaged white man to connect to those who rightly see me and my kind as an oppressor?
This was a hard book to read. I said that about "Slavery by Another Name" as well which is the companion book to this one as they both address a white power structure that uses prisons to humiliate, degrade, diminish and control black people. "Slavery by Another Name" addresses this phenomenon during Jim Crow and "The New Jim Crow" addresses how we've been doing this for the past thirty years.
To the extent white people and non-black minorities I know talk about race, its about why blacks continue to languish at the bottom of the American barrel. If other ethnic groups that have experienced discrimination manage to overcome it and prosper as Americans, what is wrong with blacks? I've always said it was slavery and its legacy, the Jim Crow era and its deprivations but now I realize that the story is even more complex, black men have been disproportionately single out for prison time, causing entire families to suffer the economic loss, the social stigma and family shame that accompanies such imprisonment.
I remember the O.J. trial and how whites were "shocked" that blacks had such a different take on the police and criminal justice. At the time, there was discussion about how black men were singled out for police harassment and arrest but I don't remember a discussion about why so many black men were imprisoned. In 1995, the impact of the drug wars wasn't fully appreciated but 15 years later with an even larger prison population, it is. The other thing about the O.J. trial that made it complicated was his role as a rich celebrity. In that regard, he took on the power and privilege of a white man and there was a sense that in his marriage to a white woman and in his lifestyle he had been escaping from his black upringing, betraying blacks. But when he stood trial, blacks hurried to support him against the white power structure.
This goes to the other argument the book makes which is the way black exceptionalism, the O.Js, the Oprahs, the Michael Jackson, Tiger Woods and Obamas allow whites to believe that racism is dead, that blacks are making it, a sign that our color-blind society has triumphed. This exceptionalism hides or excuses the results of a drug war aimed directly at the black underclass and which has snatched so many black men from their families and putting them at even greater disadvantage. After prison they are marked men, making employment very difficult, voting often impossible and public housing unlikely.
Class is not the subject of this book but I do think it is also at play both in terms of preserving the tense wariness poor whites feel towards any sign of "special favors" for blacks and as the lesser evil to that of racism but which has defined American life for so long and made everyone - rich and poor - look to the wealthy as successful and the poor as shameful losers.