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The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Michelle Alexander first all is an eternal badass in my book. New York Times bestselling author, Stanford University Law Professor, civil rights attorney, and activist are only some of the marks of excellence this woman maintains. First published in 2010, I read the latest edition as of and in 2020. I don't know how I'm going to keep this breakdown and review under 10,000 words but here it goes.

While a large part of society insists on reaching a post-racial U.S. American existence with the election of President Barack Obama, Michelle Alexander points out no further the system of mass incarceration, that is The New Jim Crow. Professor Alexander traveled and studied at length the caste system in India and made massive comparisons to the caste system that exists in U.S. America. See in 1865 when those that were enslaved went free, it was indeed to glorious time in the reconstruction era... briefly. Black men were being elected into office (15% of all men in the South) and things were changing toward racial equity until domestic terrorism in the form of mass lynching became a widely accepted tactic of removal. Social consensus of the silence white, and violent white became commonplace against people of color. White supremacist Senators and lawmakers openly vowed to maintain white dominance and a new form of enslavement was created. The law enforcement system that we know today was created to police the bodies of black people, or 'slave patrols' by those who supported the South during the Civil War and before. Those very people now helped revamp and enforce an updated police force and were now in the authority to arrest Black men at their will for 'insulting gesture and mischief", institutionalize them, and then turn around lease these men as convict labor. These men were now in "servitude to the state" under the law with the Ruffin v. Commonwealth case. These men of color had little means or education to shield themselves against these tactics and the movement evolved towards more blatant state-sanctioned violence through the 1900's. Many political leaders in conjunction with the Ku Klux Klan enforced the status quo while movies like Birth of a Nation supported the popular consensus of Black inferiority. While Jim Crow was to formally be dismantled with the 1965 Civil Rights Act, once again biased policymakers in a colorblind system got creative in keeping people of color in the less dominant caste with the War on Poverty and the War on Drugs and continued propagation of criminalizing people of color. The truth is in the numbers when Michelle Alexander divulges the incredible disparity of the number of people of color in the prison system. She details exactly which level of the caste system is profiting from imprisoning (enslaving) those people. Spoiler alert, the dominant caste, that is white affluent men benefiting from the patriarchal system are making tons of money on the privatized prison system they fund, invest, and support. Michelle Alexander talks at length about unconscious racial biases affecting policy and the minds of the masses and has an issue pointing out the evidence of the "contradiction between the country's opposition to the crimes of the Third Reich against European Jews and the continued existence of a racial case system in the United States". (Side Note: Ibram X. Kendi goes as far as to outline the outright and direct inspiration the U.S. American tactics on racial disparity and genocide had on Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich in his book Stamped from the Beginning: A Definitive History of the Racist Ideas in America)

I have used this book in reference to many projects I have worked on and have listened to this audibly as well as in regular book format and you can't go wrong with either. I will say to have a marker handy when reading because there will be many connections and intriguing points that you will want to reference and share. If you're interested in the deadly faults of the mass incarceration system and ideally those that are aiming to right the wrongs please also reference Bryan Stevenson's work in the non-profit Equal Justice Initiative that aims to get innocent Black men off of death row today. If you happen to be in Montgomery, AL you won't regret checking out the EJI museum that walks you through the timeline of Africans being stolen and enslaved to being wrongfully convicted and being put on death row today. Coincidentally, (or not) the museum is right down the street from the Confederate White House in Montgomery. Yes, that's right. The White House of the people who fought to keep people enslaved is still glorified and just so happens to be in the state where mass incarceration and execution of people of color is the worst and most unjust.

The Warmth of Other Suns is another award-winning great read from Michelle Alexander



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