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The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness Paperback – January 16, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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
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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I READ THIS BOOK SEVERAL YEARS AGO, I DECIDED TO BUY SO THAT I COULD REREAD AND SHARE IT WITH FAMILY.