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The New Jim Crow [Kindle Edition]

Michelle Alexander , Cornel West
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (786 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Once in a great while a book comes along that changes the way we see the world and helps to fuel a nationwide social movement. The New Jim Crow is such a book. Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as “brave and bold,” this book directly challenges the notion that the presidency of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. With dazzling candor, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. In the words of Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, this book is a “call to action.”

Called “stunning” by Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David Levering Lewis, “invaluable” by the Daily Kos, “explosive” by Kirkus, and “profoundly necessary” by the Miami Herald, this updated and revised paperback edition of The New Jim Crow, now with a foreword by Cornel West, is a must-read for all people of conscience.


Editorial Reviews

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 Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today...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.

Review

“Explosive debut…alarming, provocative and convincing.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Michelle Alexander’s brave and bold new book paints a haunting picture in which dreary felon garb, post-prison joblessness, and loss of voting rights now do the stigmatizing work once done by colored-only water fountains and legally segregated schools. With dazzling candor, Alexander argues that we all pay the cost of the new Jim Crow.“
—Lani Guinier, professor at Harvard Law School and author of Lift Every Voice: Turning a Civil Rights Setback into a New Vision of Social Justice and The Miner's Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy

“For every century there is a crisis in our democracy, the response to which defines how future generations view those who were alive at the time. In the 18th century it was the transatlantic slave trade, in the 19th century it was slavery, in the 20th century it was Jim Crow. Today it is mass incarceration. Alexander's book offers a timely and original framework for understanding mass incarceration, its roots to Jim Crow, our modern caste system, and what must be done to eliminate it. This book is a call to action.”
—Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO, NAACP

“With imprisonment now the principal instrument of our social policy directed toward poorly educated black men, Michelle Alexander argues convincingly that the huge racial disparity of punishment in America is not the mere result of neutral state action. She sees the rise of mass incarceration as opening up a new front in the historic struggle for racial justice. And, she’s right. If you care about justice in America, you need to read this book!”
—Glenn C. Loury, economist at Brown University and author of The Anatomy of Racial Inequality and Race, Incarceration and American Values

“After reading The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander's stunning work of scholarship, one gains the terrible realization that, for people of color, the American criminal justice system resembles the Soviet Union's gulag---the latter punished ideas, the former punishes a condition.”
—David Levering Lewis, Pulitzer-prize winning historian at NYU and author of W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963

"We need to pay attention to Michelle Alexander's contention that mass imprisonment in the U.S. constitutes a racial caste system. Her analysis reflects the passion of an advocate and the intellect of a scholar."
—Marc Mauer, Executive Director, The Sentencing Project, author of Race to Incarcerate

“A powerful analysis of why and how mass incarceration is happening in America, The New Jim Crow should be required reading for anyone working for real change in the criminal justice system.”
—Ronald E. Hampton, Executive Director, National Black Police Association

Product Details


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
494 of 526 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important, Eye Opening Work February 14, 2010
Format:Hardcover
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.
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430 of 477 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can we start talking about race? May 3, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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.
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248 of 277 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MUST READ: A powerful book! January 5, 2010
Format:Hardcover
Law Professor Michelle Alexander's long-anticipated debut puts a bright light directly on what is perhaps our greatest national shame: the extraordinary rates of incarceration for people of color in the United States.

Her writing is lucid and gripping; her arguments are clear and concise; her conclusions often are inescapable. She powerfully makes the case that the incarceration industry has become to the 21st Century what Jim Crow segregation was to the 20th: a system that undermines American ideals of justice, while reinforcing social inequality.

In what many hope will be a "post-racial" era, Ms. Alexander's voice is a courageous one. Even as she rightfully celebrates progress at many levels, she refuses to let our society ignore the fact that a million or more people of color are imprisoned today (out of all proportion to their numbers in the population AND even out of all proportion to their rate of criminal offenses, as documented by the government).

More importantly, she dares to ask (and attempts to answer) the simple question: how can this be happening in our country today?

Impeccably well-argued, "The New Jim Crow" is an inspired work - representing the debut of a bright, new and important voice in American life and letters.
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79 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, Informative, and Mind-Opening April 26, 2010
Format:Hardcover
I have just put down Michelle Alexander's book after reading the very last word and I don't know what to say. I am literally so in awe, so grateful for her work, so amazed at her talent and gifts that I am truly without words to describe how I feel or what I think.

I am normally a very quick read but her book forced me to slow down. Not a word or sentence was unnecessary but rather so incredibly meaningful, meaty, and educational that I found myself only being able to read when I was well-rested and undisturbed. I am amazed at how effectively and clearly she informed the reader, me, about the current state of our justice system, the experience of police encounters (which was infuriating and would fill me with rage), and how the laws serve to disempower people and make them disappear. How she moved from data-driven, legal, educational, & rational arguments to a passionate appeal for change and a sharing of a real vision is astonishing.

I love how she writes, so clear and with a crescendo of support for her thesis, and what she wrote about. I'm truly grateful for this piece of work. The book is truly inspiring as it is mystifying that we are where we are. I haven't been able to stop telling people about her book but sadly am not nearly as eloquent and struggle to explain concisely the arguments.

I wish everyone would read this body of work. Well done!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
GOOD BOOK
Published 6 hours ago by delores davis
5.0 out of 5 stars One of those books every person should read by their ...
One of those books every person should read by their eighteenth birthday-And when someone poses the question of what they might have done in the early days of Hitler's Germany... Read more
Published 14 hours ago by Patrick A Harford
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful addition!
So glad I added this book to my collection!
Published 14 hours ago by TheLotus
5.0 out of 5 stars THE book of the 21st century so far
This is the most powerful book I have read probably since Cornel West's "Race Matters" and definitely the finest and most thorough research on ANY subject of the 21st... Read more
Published 1 day ago by senghorchild
5.0 out of 5 stars I can't recommend this book highly enough
Essential reading, eye-opening, and completely discomforting. A rare and important book that will change the way you view the current state of U.S. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Scott Kennedy
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book.
Seriously. Read it.
Published 1 day ago by Aany
5.0 out of 5 stars My eyes were opened to a lot of things going ...
My eyes were opened to a lot of things going on within our government and how our Black men and women are in modern day slavery. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Darlene Thorpe
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A must on every American bookshelf.
Published 5 days ago by A. Broomhall
5.0 out of 5 stars Wasted words.
While I'm sure such a book would be very enlightening to the those that live in another country but to those of us who are born and raised in the United States this book is old... Read more
Published 6 days ago by Ian Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars intelligent, well written
Informative, intelligent, well written, source oriented and interesting. The only downside may be a bit of repetition.
Published 6 days ago by Samuel Cohen
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More About the Author

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.

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I have not read the book
I'm so tempted to buy this book and read it. After reading the reviews though, I already see I'll be disgusted by it before I have a chance to finish it. I'm a black American in m 40's who grew up in a poor Batimore neighborhood to a single mother. I have never had anycontact with the criminal... Read More
Apr 26, 2013 by Kenneth Baker |  See all 4 posts
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