Author Topic: Michelle Alexander, THE NEW JIM CROW (2010)  (Read 156 times)

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Offline agate

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Michelle Alexander, THE NEW JIM CROW (2010)
« on: March 12, 2014, 04:40:59 pm »
Michelle Alexander, THE NEW JIM CROW: MASS INCARCERATION IN THE AGE OF COLORBLINDNESS (2010; revised edition, 2012)

Michelle Alexander is a civil rights lawyer, and she clearly has an agenda.  She makes a very persuasive case for the gradual and little-noticed development of a "racial undercaste" in the United States in the last twenty or thirty years, as the war on drugs has moved forward at an alarming pace--and as many who have served time find themselves disenfranchised and unable to avail themselves of other advantages of US citizenship upon their release from prison. Alexander sees these developments as a concerted campaign to insure that large numbers of African-American men stay at the very bottom of the economic ladder.

One source she often draws upon, however, is the controversial Lerone Bennett, long-time editor of Ebony magazine, whose books have met with a mixed critical reception over the years. For instance, Eric Foner writing in the American Historian, expresses reservations in ]his review of his most recent book (on Lincoln).

And Alexander cites some very astonishing facts  comparing the number of incarcerations in the 2000s to those in the 1970s, as well as numerous facts about prison construction, numbers of felony convictions, and many others.

She insists that crimes that are tolerated "on one side of town" aren't tolerated in another side of town--white people have been able to traffic in illegal drugs for recreation with impunity while African-Americans are searched without due cause and arrested for possession on very slight or nonexistent evidence.

She points out that prisons are now a very big business, with a lot to lose from any diminution in the number of incarcerations.

One of her most alarming observations concerns the increasing militarization of the police--something any occasional watcher of the TV program Cops will have noted.  The military has been making weapons freely available to the police for quite some time, Alexander discloses.

This is a hard-hitting book, and, fortunately for the extremely important cause the author is backing, she doesn't adopt a shrill or strident tone though she is clearly outraged.

Outrage seems to be in order.

--As a postscript here, it is well known that African-Americans have been wrongfully convicted of crimes. The war on drugs is the area where wrongful convictions have been particularly widespread lately. But then there was a former student of mine, Delbert Tibbs, who was wrongfully convicted (in Florida) of rape and murder and who served 3 years in prison, two of them on death row, before being freed:

--There's nothing at all new about the injustice African-Americans have suffered in this country.

Michelle Alexander's book, calling attention to the most recent manifestation of that injustice, should be read and discussed. Apparently it has attracted considerable attention. Good.
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