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The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness Paperback – January 16, 2012
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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 Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today...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 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.
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Alexander points out that this is nothing more than a new system to marginalize and discriminate against blacks, and calls it "the new Jim Crow". If anything, it's more accurate to call it the new slavery. Just go to Angola State Prison in Louisiana and watch all the black prisoners working in the cotton fields. Look familiar? Now how did this happen? How did the number of Americans behind bars go from 350,000 (still a high number) to over 2 million in the last 30-40 years? A large part of it was the War on Drugs, started by Nixon around 1970. Alexander traces the history of the drug war, and describes how it became a vehicle for mistreating blacks even in the face of prevalent "colorblind" attitudes of most Americans today. We don't directly label blacks as inferior and make them ride the back of the bus today, we just try real hard to get them labeled as felons, then we can discriminate. And most Americans don't realize we're doing it and how much damage this causes. It's also expensive and a waste of taxpayer dollars.
In the final chapters Alexander offers some ideas on how to dismantle this system. It's very hard, and it's not enough to file lawsuits in individual cases. It requires a major protest movement. Many things have to be undone, such as the entire drug war, disenfranchisement laws, the management of prisons by private corporations to name a few. But the resistance will be huge because many jobs would disappear, and no one wants to be seen making life better for criminals. Also, colorblindness won't do - we need to be conscious of racial differences yet driven to treat everyone with respect, fairness and kindness. It's a totally different mindset for most Americans. Especially fascinating was her description of how such concessions, or "racial bribes", as affirmative action serve to justify continuing the system as it is. Affirmative action has helped a lot of blacks become successful, but it glosses over the main problem. The fact that we have a black President also obscures the real issues.
Alexander states also that a full treatment of how to fix this problem would require another book, and I eagerly await that. In the meantime, please read this one.
Everyone should read this book, even if you have to keep stuffing a loose section back in.