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A thought-provoking book. Well researched. I no longer claim to be colour blind.
This book amazingly explains the inequality in today's justice system. Michelle Alexander is a talented writer that uses realistic reasonings to support her opinions. The New Jim Crow is a highly impactful book that will spark a discussion and will question yourself what kind of justice system we are living in. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is willing to learn about the persistently avoided problems we face.
This book is very thorough on discussing the creation and explanation caste system resulting from the war on drugs. The author does seem to dwell on certain topics and opposing views were not mentioned in the book. It is written persuasively more than how it claims to be about starting a discussion. I enjoyed it over all as the author has a strong voice and has adept writing skills.
The New Jim Crow massively oversimplifies issues in the American criminal justice system. It is perplexing how this book has received the hype that it has. It essentially cries racism and blames every issue within the system on that single claim. It is hard to take this work as an objective analysis of the criminal justice system when so many important aspects are ignored to advance the author's arguments. Alexander seldom acknowledges the all too real damage that narcotics inflict upon communities and our society as a whole. She also omits examples of "real" failed drug wars that have taken place as close as central America. If the topics covered in this book interest you I really recommend reading other books because this one simply does not paint a very accurate nor complete picture of the subject matter. Below are a couple of recommendations.
A War that Cant Be Won: Binational Perspectives on the War on Drugs
by Payan, Tony; Staudt, Kathleen; Kruszewski, Z. Anthony
Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform
by Pfaff, John
Exceptionally well-researched look at how mass incarceration in the U.S. has deliberately created a new racial under-caste. It's truthful, timely and in many ways prescriptive - it's one of those books that everyone should read.
The author says it is meant to be a discussion starter. She is head of the Racial Justice department of northern California's ACLU. Her thesis is that there Jim Crow laws have been replaced with a racial caste system. Her husband a federal prosecutor, sees it differently. This book really isn't meant to be read by yourself. You need other opinions as you read it. If you are in a book club or even a progressive church Sunday School class, this would be a great discussion starter. My favorite Sunday School class was in a Salem Oregon Methodist church, 1991, where we discussed what how did our actions now reflect our Christianity. Each class had a different focus, like responding to terrorism or working with Habitat for Humanity. I could see this book being used in that class or in an AP high school class.
The New Jim Crow is an instant classic of the genre. Since publication, I have seen this book and its arguments cited in so much media I've consumed (books, documentaries, podcasts). I am glad I finally got to experience the source text myself. For its historical analysis, for the way it traces slavery to the convict lease system to Jim Crow to mass incarceration, for how clearly it's explained how assigning criminality functions + creates a new social undercaste, this book is crucial.
"Hundreds of years ago, our nation put those considered less than human in shackles; less than one hundred years ago, we relegated them to the other side of town; today we put them in cages. Once released, they find that a heavy and cruel hand has been laid upon them."
"As a society, our decision to heap shame and contempt upon those who struggle and fail in a system designed to keep them locked up and locked out says far more about ourselves than it does about them."
"The widespread and mistaken belief that racial animus is necessary for the creation and maintenance of racialized systems of social control is the most important reason that we, as a nation, have remained in deep denial [about mass incarceration]."
"It is fair to say that we have witnessed an evolution in the United States from a racial caste system based entirely on exploitation (slavery), to one based largely on subordination (Jim Crow), to one defined by marginalization (mass incarceration)."
"Drug crime in this country us understood to be black and brown, and it is because drug crime is racially defined in the public consciousness that the electorate has not cared much what happens to drug criminals--at least not the way they would have cared if the criminals were understood to be white."
Alexander argues that reductions in legal avenues provided to black prisoners; Supreme Court antagonism toward racial bias in cases; and more people of color getting taken up by law enforcement forces despite the fact that more white people commit drug crimes, leads to a situation in which mass incarceration does not serve to reduce crime but to induce racialized social control.
If you retain an ounce of social justice in your psyche, you will probably want to repeatedly throw this book across the room, but not because it is poorly written. It is because it is so well researched and argued that it boggles the mind that this reader could have been so blind as not to see it. I wonder how well book could be countered.
The book is way to repetitive, but then glosses over some topics. could have been much shorter. Even so very interesting. New book with new information would be good.
This is a very important book to read, and I'd recommend it for that reason. I wanted it to say even more though. The book is repetitive, but then glosses over some topics. There could have been more about juveniles being charged as adults, jury selection, funding for public defenders, and the militarization of police departments. The book is only 8 years old, but already seems dated. I hope there is a second edition at some point that looks at how the Black Lives Matter movement, social media, police body cameras, and the Trump presidency have affected the rates of mass incarceration and public perception.
Wow. This book blew me away and helped me to better appreciate the racial challenges we are facing while educating me about important civil right's history I did not know.
Not only does author Michelle Alexander write with coherence and clarity, but she makes the material into a page turner, without exaggeration or hyperbole. The facts presented disturbingly connect the dots and substantiate her thesis that the war on drugs, in effect has created an underclass of Americans, who can be legally discriminated against in housing, employment, educational opportunities and exercise of basic citizenship rights that the rest of us take for granted. And oh -- the victims just happen to be the same people that we can no longer legally discriminate via the old Jim Crow laws --- but simply by catching them with a small amount of pot -- and no other evidence of wrong doing, they can permanently be part of an underclass composed almost entirely of people of color. The war on drugs has not only been a colossal failure it is The New Jim Crow!
This would be a FABULOUS choice for a book club too, so much to think about and discuss.
One of the most important books I have read in the last decade. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Perhaps the most important thing this book does is break down the differences between the racial hostility and open bigotry that most Americans recognize as racism, and the quieter, more insidious forms of racial bias that are now that primary form of discrimination faced by American minorities. Alexander demonstrates how Supreme Court decisions that eviscerate the 4th Amendment and narrowly interpret the 14th Amendment have allowed a racially unequal criminal justice system to flourish since the War on Drugs began in the 1980s.
Read my full review at http://shayshortt.com/2015/10/22/the-new-jim-crow/
For a variety of reasons (including prior employment and volunteer work) I already knew most of the pieces of what Alexander writes about. But she puts those pieces together in a way I hadn't entirely considered before--i.e. War on Drugs = a way of keeping black and brown people down without whites having to talk about race in a "post racial" age. She writes very dispassionately, in order to not antagonize white readers, but you get her point. I did put it down several times, as she got repetitive, but am glad I persevered. She doesn't really provide a definitive answer to the problems, but she sure nails the problems. Now it's up to the country that incarcerates a higher percentage of its citizens than any other developed country in the world to finally start talking and find those solutions, together.
A commenter wrote: // What really shocked me about this book is how strongly it made me feel about the flaws in our criminal justice system. \\ Again and again it must be stated - - these ARE NOT flaws, it is by design. The major ISM above all other 'isms, is capitalism! The major investor in private prisons is the Vanguard Group, while the private equity firm, the Blackstone Group, was involved financially with Prison Realty!
The Vanguard Group is one of the Big Four investment firms invested in the majority of major corporations in America [and Europe]: BlackRock, Vanguard Group, State Street and FRM LLC [Fidelity]. BlackRock was spun off from the Blackstone Group, which was originally founded with Rockefeller family money.
This book is hopefully just the beginning of a conversation that America needs to have with itself. If you liked this book, a great followup book would be Howard Zinn's "People's History Of The United States". The most shocking thing about this book for me was where my mind automatically went as I was reading it. I consider myself a hardcore liberal and yet still found myself going into the predictable places as I read it! Definitely a worthwhile read-I learned so much I never would have otherwise-even though I live in a very diverse neighborhood. Highly recommended!
One of the most intriguing books I have ever read. I had no idea what people face after they are released. "The New Jim Crow" will grip you and challenge you to reconsider your idea of mass incarceration.
This book should be required reading for everyone. As a white woman, this brought so many things to light for me, things that never would have even occurred to me because of my privilege, aka my skin color. The only thing is that I don't recommend reading this before bed; it made me very angry and sleep was chased off.
A must read book about the targeting of Black Americans specifically, and poor people in general, for the profit of the latest segment of American multinational privatization, the US prison system! Corrections Corporation of America, Prison Realty, and on and on and on, big bucks and bigger bucks with evermore incarceration.
I almost didn't finish this book when it got repetitive half way through, but I'm glad I kept going because it's such an important topic. We need to restore the rights of people who have been swept up in the discriminatory "War on Drugs".
I recently had an experience in which a friend of mine, who was serving a sentence in federal prison, got out and started searching for a job. I tried to help her. A kindly HR person told me how it works. HR people are flooded with applications, and need ways to cull the applicant pool. A criminal record is a convenient marker to weed out applicants. Couple this with disproportionate enforcement, and you have the new Jim Crow. Michelle Alexander has nailed it, spot on. The new Jim Crow is real.
I like this book, it contained a lot of truth in it and really enlightens one (if you're not enlightened already). The writer talks about how the system is racist towards black folks, not ina direct form but in a hidden, less-transparent way. It took a while for me to complete it, not because it was boring , but rather, because of its length. However, the one thing I didn't like about it was it's repetition; the writer kept repeating the emphasis on a couple of main points such as how the "war on drugs" is actually a plot to trap black folks into the Penitentiary system. But overall, I give it a thumbs up.
This is a very important book for anyone who is interested in social justice in America. It discusses how the war on drugs has led to the mass incarceration of people of color -- particularly African-American and Latino men. It goes on to explain the negative consequences of the the criminal justice system, upon the poorest communities in our nation. Please read this book and encourage others to read it. It is a call for much needed change and without that change, we will never achieve a nation of true racial equality.
What really shocked me about this book is how strongly it made me feel about the flaws in our criminal justice system. I already knew that the US has the largest prison population, that minimum sentencing laws have gotten out of hand, that the War on Drugs is a waste, that ex-convicts lose voting rights in many states, and things like that. I already had a sense that the justice system didn't care about rehibilitating people so much as punishing them. But what Michelle Alexander brilliantly illustrates is that this system's main target is the incarceration of people of color.
I know. Duh, right? But seriously, even though you think you might realize it, the extent of the problem is truly mind boggling. Sure, the system arose via racially coded "tough on crime" politics. But it insidiously maintains itself, because politicians who would even try to address the problem worry about being seen as soft on crime. Additionally, selectively enforced laws allow for both conscious and unconscious biases to determine who is arrested, who is tried, and who is given the harshest sentences. Even worse, in our color-blind society, we have a hard time seeing that there is a problem. Sure, one in three black men between the ages of 20 and 29 are in prison or on parole, but Barack Obama is president. Therefore, there is no racial injustice, right? Even in the communities that are the targets of this selective justice, the social stigma of having family members in prison prevents people from rallying together to tackle the problem.
This is not just a book on the unfariness of the criminal justice system, though. It's also about the creation of a new second class citizen: The convicted felon. While it's not legal to discriminate based on color, it's perfectly legal to deny housing, jobs, and even voting rights to ex-criminals. What better way to assure criminal recidivism, right? It's almost as if eliminating crime is not the main concern of the system!
Ugh... I know I'm not doing a good job of communicating what's in this book. The stuff I've written sounds like stuff I've read before. Perhaps it would be better to give a link to the interview with Michelle Alexander that interested me in the book in the first place. It's illuminating to see that even she, as director of the ACLU's Racial Justice Project of Northern California, didn't realize the extent of the problem until a particular incident:
"And the light bulb went on: 'Wow, he's right about me. I'm no better than the police.' I just started questioning myself: 'How am I as a civil rights lawyer, just replicating all the same forms of discrimination I say I'm out here fighting against?'"