For People Who Care Deeply About Racial Justice – Short Readings From The New Jim Crow By Michelle Alexander

new jim crowThis book is not for everyone. I have a specific audience in mind – people who care deeply about racial justice but who, for any number of reasons, do not yet appreciate the magnitude of the crisis faced by communities of color as a result of mass incarceration… Last, but definitely not least, I am writing this book for all those trapped within America’s latest caste system. You may be locked up or locked out of mainstream society, but you are not forgotten.
Michelle Alexander — The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

I walk my Speech students through an exercise to help them pick an informative speech topic. I have them brainstorm, in seven different categories, in boxes on a sheet of paper. One of the categories is “Problem/Disease.” As I give examples, I mention “racism” as a problem.

There is almost always a reaction. And that reaction is something like this: “Yes, that is in fact still quite a problem.” My classes are pretty diverse (it is a community college in the Dallas Community College system). I have had students who have experienced racism first hand.

In other words, this is a problem that has not gone away.

Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination – employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of educational opportunity, denial of food stamps, and other public benefits, and exclusion from jury service – are suddenly legal. As a criminal, you have scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, that a black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow. We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.
I reached the conclusions in this book reluctantly.
Quite belatedly, I came to see that mass incarceration in the United States, had, in fact, emerged as a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow.
(Michelle Alexander — The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness)

You see, racism is not just seen in isolated acts by racist individuals. It is seen in systemic decisions made by an entire society.

I heard on NPR just yesterday that the lowest performing students are clustered in the lowest performing schools, and those lowest performing schools have many, many students who live with single mothers. Where are the fathers? In many instances, they are in prison.

It’s pretty tough to be a high performing student, and later a high-performing worker, in such circumstances.

The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid. In Washington D.C., our nation’s capital, it is estimated that three out of four young black men (and nearly all those in the poorest neighborhoods) can expect to serve some time in prison. Similar rates of incarceration can be found in black communities across America.
What is completely missed in the rare public debates today about the plight of African Americans is that a huge percentage of them are not free to move up at all. It is not just that they lack opportunity, attend poor schools, or are plagued by poverty. They are barred by law from doing so.
(Michelle Alexander — The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness)

This is a problem, a crisis, in our country. And until it is addressed, and solved…

Let me encourage you to read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. And then think about helping fix this problem.



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