The New Jim Crow Paperback – 2 Feb 2012
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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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After looking at a pamphlet, proclaiming that Drug War is the new Jim Crow, the author ignored it as a theory promoted by a bunch of conspiracy guys. She continues in her job as a civil rights lawyer, but in due course realises that the statement was actually true. Millions of black and brown people in the US are languishing behind bars because of the Drug war that was unleashed during the 80’s when Ronald Regan was the president. The outcome of her quest to expose the truth is this book. And what a fantastic book this is.
Here are the key points raised in the book:
1. The race based segregation never went away, it just changed to a form that was more palatable to the prevalent norms in the society. Started as Slavery, ended with the civil war in 1865. Transformed to Jim crow laws, ended with the civil rights law in 1964. Transformed to War on drugs in the 1980’s, and still going on. It’s like a chameleon changing colours to avoid being detected
2. The criminal and judicial systems act in tandem to act as a funnel sucking in an increasing number of black and brown people into a life of segregation. At top of the funnel are the police who routinely stop and search the minorities looking for drugs, flagrantly defying 4th amendment which was meant to protest people’s right to privacy . Black and brown men are put in jail for possessing even small quantities of drugs, while the white men are treated differently. Once they are behind bars, they are scared into accepting guilty plea by the prosecutor, or go to trial and risk harsh sentences. The prosecutors have been granted virtually unlimited power to go after them. And by passing laws, the higher courts have made it impossible for police and prosecutors to be held accountable for their actions
3. Once the person comes out, the segregation doesn’t end. They are discriminated on every possible front: housing, jobs, social benefits. It is monumentally difficult for him to get back to normalcy. Often, he ends up back in jail. And the cycle continues
4. There are incentives for politicians and businesses to keep things the way they are. For politicians, it’s a way to keep the white people feel distracted from their poor economic condition. For businesses that manage jails, there’s money to be made as more and more people are put behind bars. Their profit depends on more people being incarcerated. With such strong incentives, it won’t be easy to pass legislation to abolish this race based segregation
‘Colorblindness’ in the sub-title of book means that we as a society have become indifferent to the plight of these minorities. Because it’s too convenient to think that segregation doesn’t exist, especially when we see a black man getting elected as the president. And we don’t hear people openly vouching for racist beliefs (although that is changing as we can see in the current US election). The author warns against this indifference. Just because those prisons are located in remote villages, away from the main society, we cannot ignore this race based segregation.
Finally, the author proposes that nothing short of a movement will end this form of segregation that is being waged under the name of War on Drugs.
This is an important piece of work for the current generation - it highlights why we need to educate the public on crime and justice, and how important it is to be involved in your local community.
A fantastic read from a talented and thought-provoking writer.
Here’s one such first principal: why do we imprison others? I’m of the mind that it shouldn’t be to punish, however bad the crime, but rather to protect the liberties of ALL. In the interest of subjective self-disclosure: I have two neighbours, who have each been through the prison system multiple times. Now in their sixties, I help with their banking and medication, because they are both illiterate. It would have been of the greatest benefit to society to teach them to read, but the principal of their incarceration was to punish.
Michelle Alexander has done something remarkable (also check the documentary, “13th” which wouldn’t exist without this book) in exposing structural inequality on an industrial scale. Her argument is elegant and carefully evidenced, it will profit anyone who reads it (even naysayers). As important as John Rawls, “A Theory of Justice”, and I hope destined to be a standard text alongside Hobbes’ “Leviathan”.
use and during the last 20 years has become institutionalised in the so called land of the free namely America. This system is a manifestation of pure evil comparable with the Nazis concentration camps. That such hatred can exist in the so called modern world and fly under the radar of public consciousness on both sides of the Atlantic beggars belief and the author must be canonised for exposing it. I spent a lot of time in a state of disbelief and despair when reading that such a war type crime was going on in plain sight in the leading country of the Free world
The only reason I have given this 4 stars out of 5 is because I found it a bit repetitive at points, but it's worth persevering through.
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