The New Jim Crow Mass Incarceration in the Age of ê Epub papercuts.co

Jarvious Cotton's great great grandfather could not vote as a slave His great grandfather was beaten to death by the Klu Klux Klan for attempting to vote His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation; his father was barred by poll taxes and literacy tests Today Cotton cannot vote because he like many black men in the United States has been labeled a felon and is currently on paroleAs the United States celebrates the nation's triumph over race with the election of Barack Obama the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status much like their grandparents before themIn this incisive critiue former litigator turned legal scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America we have simply redesigned it Alexander shows that by targeting black men and decimating communities of color the US criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community and all of us to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America


10 thoughts on “The New Jim Crow Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

  1. says:

    In February of 2016 a powerful article appeared in The Nation “Why Hillary Clinton Doesn't Deserve the Black Vote” The name of its author—Michelle Alexander—struck me as familiar Then I realized she was the Ohio State law professor who had caused some stir five years ago with her book The New Jim Crow a book which demonstrated how our criminal justice system was in effect little than a system of racial oppression It was then I decide I had put off reading The New Jim Crow long enoughAlexander has the credentials and the experience to know whereof she speaks After graduating from Stanford Law and clerking for Justice Blackmun she went to work for the California ACLU specializing in criminal justice reform It was there she began to realize that the American criminal justice system was not designed to reform criminals or to control them or even merely to punish them; instead like the Jim Crow laws in the old South its result was a virtual caste system a method of social control that excludes black people in general—and poor black males in particular—from full participation in American society Its most noticeable effect is mass incarceration today the United States locks up people per capita than any other country in the world and the number of black people in prison is three times greater than their percentage of the general populationBut The New Jim Crow demonstrates that it is not merely the large number of people in prison but the severe curtailment of their rights after they leave prison that generates much of the system's hopelessness Felons are excluded from public housing welfare employment opportunities and even in many states the right to vote These felons—a significant percentage of the urban black population—become an underclass unable to rise an underclass filled with pariahs who are excluded from America's freedomsAlthough many people see the rise of mass incarceration as a response to the crack “epidemic” of the 80's Alexander argues persuasively that it was instead a retaliation against the civil rights gains of the 60's and 70's “Law and Order” had for years been a code phrase for racial control exploited by Nixon and others but it was Reagan's “War on Drugs”—unleashed two years before cocaine was any kind of a problem—that put the system in operation But it was not until the '90's when Bill Clinton signed the the 1994 crime bill which Bernie Sanders voted for and subseuently ended “welfare as we know it” that the system achieved the merciless efficiency that it maintains to the present dayThis is an important book and one that progressives like myself—who have put the Bernie shirts away and now display a Hillary sign on the lawn or at least displayed one until some joker in the neighborhood stole it—should read carefully and take to heart It outlines the formidable task whoever may be president that we have ahead of us in the years to come


  2. says:

    Hardly an author opened my eyes for the real dimensions and roots of the prison industry as Alexander did she nails down the problems intrinsic to an injustice system growing like a virus or tumor in a once prospering nation I´ll compare 3 examples of systems from best to worst to demonstrate that it´s not just a problem of hidden suppressed racism but a uestion of the societal model too 1 Fair sustainable eco social Keynesian Nordic model countries with rehabilitative justice such as Scandinavia Switzerland the Netherlands2 Democratic countries with a renewed played down ignored and not indemnified history of colonialism oppression slavery and full of sick philosophies politics economics and humanities3 Dictatorships with exploitative economic models The problem is that the overwhelming majority of the population lives in point 2 and 3 countries and that a change can just come with a sustainable and fair economic and societal model because as long as stupid doctrines and agenda dominate any aspect of life economy education and even the public debate about the future is infected there is no hope Look at what rehabilitative justice and punitive justice are related too take for instance these uizzes showing how other mentalities ideologies and faith influence and poison all other aspects of mentality and the lives of other people Extremism of any kind in one single aspect especially certain not all kinds of conservatism and right wing politics not to forget this eye for an eye thing and the wannabe break free market tend to be against restorativerehabilitative justice adoring enforcing retributive punitive justice and a destructive and unnecessary system There is the old saying that prisons make criminals and nothing could be closer to the truth because being incarcerated with people with terrible lives full of poverty abuse violence mental health issues that forced them to be criminal to survive together with a state that doesn´t care about them instead of helping these individuals to resocialize is the perfect breeding ground for an endless continuation of a vicious circle After surviving in circumstances so cruel and inhuman most won´t go out without permanent psychological trauma scarred for life PTSD and new mental issues added to the ones that led to imprisonment the delinuents are stigmatized branded the state does as much as possible to make their life even bleaker without hope of resocialization or a new beginning forcing them to become criminal again to simply survive because they have close to no other perspective It´s nothing else than a feudalistic socioeconomic status system with very few chances of escape if one has the bad luck of being born poor and not white If one looks at the numbers statistics and timelines and compares the War on drugs that destroyed black communities as much as the narcotics the main economic doctrine and the politics one sees a parallel of extreme increase of all problems in the US while many European countries especially Scandinavia have nothing like that It might also be a good idea to take a look at the interconnection of public private partnerships prison industry and the possible context with the development because it´s a bit as if the car industry could define the safety standards or the food industry the legal limits for contamination with whatever there are enough chemicals to choose from or Big Pharma You get the picture This could lead to the interest of both the companies and the state to well imprison as many people as long as possible to make money Not even to mention the conscious and subliminal racist thinking that is still poisoning many influential minds that enabled their parents to transform the jurisdiction and legislation to or less secretly and subtly integrate Jim Crow in a new even vicious way Because it seems legit and fair for the conservative rich opportunistic and stubborn wing who thinks that they have full rights while people of color are just three fifths They would immediately call their major or governor or why not the president doesn´t seem improbable these days if the police would dare to make a crackdown in their rich gated community Ok the officers would possibly not even come close because the high security standards and guards would possibly not let them in „I´m sorry gentlemen you have no permission to disturb our residents Why don´t you try it in the red lined poor hopeless areas guess you´ll have much luck there to boost your busts“ Because bigoted politically correct people don´t judge people because of color but by asking if they are poor evil dangerous criminals who after leaving prison deserve exclusion from jury and voting housing education and employment discrimination most citizenship rights or honest hard working good citizens Just progressive social economic and political reforms Big History and a reprocessing of the past including redemption could stop the madness But it´s still a long way to go because as long as people think that one black president means that racism has been exterminated which is the same illogic as saying that sexism disappeared overnight in the countries ruled by women no important and open public debate can arise A wiki walk can be as refreshing to the mind as a walk through nature in this completely overrated real life outside books This one is especially creepy and distinctive because if one clicks „incarceration rate per 100000 population“ there is the US followed by states that are no great places to live there are close to no other Western democracies in the top list giving massive implications of something going terribly wrong here look at the categories down at the end of the 2 articles once it´s related to sustainable intelligent retributive solutions and on the dark side to retributive tribalism founded by wacky humanities The Big History picture of this that is close to unexplored is immense


  3. says:

    The New Jim Crow Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander will pick up your everyday white liberal guilt tie it in knots and leave you wondering how you could have ever been so simple minded as to think colorblindness was benign let alone desirable While the “War on Drugs” hopped up on federal funds and confiscated property is systematically exploiting African American neighborhoods to supply the ever growing prison industry with human beings to incarcerate the mass imprisonment of young black men is inevitable Felony convictions of African Americans for simple possession of the kinds of drugs that white youth are routinely expected to “experiment with” are easily obtained but incarceration is just the beginning Once branded a felon in America today one has no future no job no loan for tuition no food stamps to help feed the children no vote no jury service In some states no amount of restitution can change a felon back into a citizen Alexander’s scholarly study is than convincing and as she admits its lesson is than challenging While the best and brightest of African American leaders merely provide evidence for those who insist that racism is not the problem the future remains grim


  4. says:

    1988 English 201 I was a college freshman reuired to write a paper about fads vs trends For reasons I cannot recall I chose to write about the War on Drugs I can’t recall anything about the paper either though I can still see the “This Is Your Brain On Drugs” commercial that was rolled out in 1987 by the Partnership for a Drug Free America Washington D C was embroiled in the Iran Contra Affair It was an election year Perestroika had just begun rolling off western tongues Benazir Bhutto was named Prime Minister of Pakistan I was eighteen and although I knew all about apartheid in South Africa and stood in line to see Mississippi Burning when it was released late that year I had been raised in nearly all white communities in rural Washington state The notion that the War on Drugs was at the heart of a “stunningly comprehensive and well disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow” p 4 would have been beyond my limited understanding of race in these United StatesMichelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness is stunning The racialized social control she writes of in the introduction is uite simple to state but devastating in complexity the United States since the dismantling of Jim Crow began in the mid 1940s has sought to maintain the social dominance of its white population by the systematic mass incarceration of people of color primarily young black men You can’t believe that so radical a policy carried out on a massive scale that reuires the collusion of each branch of government not to mention the FBI CIA and local law enforcement is possible? Don’t take my word for it Read Alexander’s painstakingly documented book Follow up her statements with research of your own; sadly it’s very easy to connect the dots all the way back to the start of slavery in the Colonies long before the Federation was formed long before the Constitution of the United States declared that slaves were defined as three fifths of a man I could provide you the litany of statistical evidence Alexander lays out but it’s hard to know where to start or where to stop The data are here; the numbers are real and they are soul crushing I challenge you to read this and learn for yourself What makes this book so compelling however is Alexander’s ability to put human faces in front of the statistics to show us that our shared history has neither a shared interpretation nor shared conseuences Alexander effectively repeats and summarizes the concepts on a regular basis which is a welcome relief because so much of this information is hard to process I expended much energy in rage and frustration of how this system came to be and is allowed to continue that I needed the freuent re focus About two thirds of the way in she offers this summation This in brief is how the system works The War on Drugs is the vehicle through which extraordinary numbers of black men are forced into the cage The entrapment occurs in three distinct phases The first stage is the roundup Vast numbers of people are swept into the criminal justice system by the police who conduct drug operations primarily in poor communities of color The conviction marks the beginning of the second phase the period of formal control Once arrested defendants are generally denied meaningful legal representation and pressured to plead guilty whether they are or not The final stage has been dubbed by some advocates as the period of invisible punishment a form of punishment that operates largely outside of public view and takes effect outside the traditional sentencing framework and collectively ensures that the offenders will never integrate into mainstream white society One of the most thought provoking issues raised in The New Jim Crow is the concept of colorblindness and how Martin Luther King’s call to create a society where people are not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character has been badly distorted by politicians in their attempts to dismantle affirmative action and anti poverty programs Recognition of this distortion is not new of course but it’s been skillfully employed in the mass incarceration movement by those who don’t want to appear racist As Alexander states “In the era of colorblindness it is no longer socially permissible to use race explicitly as a justification for discrimination exclusion and social contempt So we don’t Rather than rely on race we use our criminal justice system to label people of color “criminals” and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind Today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans 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 rights and arguably less respect than 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” Martin Luther King Jr fought for a society where people were not judged by the color of their skin He never called for the color of their skin to be ignoredMichelle Alexander states in the opening sentence that This 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 faced by communities of color as a result of mass incarcerationand those who have been struggling to persuade their friends neighbors relatives teachers co workers or political representatives but who have lacked the facts and data to back up their claims 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 our lock out of mainstream society but you are not forgotten So it’s natural to end such a bleak assessment of race in America with the uestion what can be done? Michelle Alexander addresses this extensively including taking the traditional civil rights organizations to task for turning their backs on the long standing issue of mass incarceration of black and brown Americans As a white woman living again in predominantly white rural Washington state I despair at my ability to contribute anything useful to the dialogue much less to be an agent of change I accept I’ll be branded an SJW fine by me and shout mostly to a choir of my own peers But I know after reading what Michelle Alexander wrote in her preface that this book is for me; I am the audience she had in mind She also states in the introduction that A new social consensus must be forged about race and the role of race in defining the basic structure of our society if we ever hope to abolish the New Jim Crow The new consensus must begin with dialogue a conversation that fosters critical consciousness a key prereuisite to effective social action After Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson MO last August and the Black Lives Matter campaign spread across social media I vowed to listen read and better educate myself about racial injustices as well as hold myself accountable for on my own assumptions and prejudices The New Jim Crow makes me uncomfortable; it makes me angry ashamed fearful and determined Determined never to be so blind again


  5. says:

    Criminal PurposeIntention is not the euivalent of purpose neither for individuals nor for societies Intention is mental and ephemeral an idea before the fact which is part of a complex of other ideas many of which may be contrary or contradictory Intention is expressed in what we say about what we want Purpose is the behavioral result of actions which are actually taken and which reveal our freuently unstated or even unconscious commitments Purpose is the concrete effects of what we do; it is what happens Purpose emerges from intentions through politics We can rationalise delude and comfort ourselves about intention but purpose is the reality which insists on being seen for what it is And purpose is often surprising and sometimes uglyThe stated intention of the American legal system is eual justice under the law a part of the American Dream of ‘opportunity’ An actual purpose of this system is the political sterilisation and social suppression of Black America The intentional Dream is a purposeful Illusion It matters little whether the majority of Americans intend for this to be the case The politics of accommodating conflicting intentions has ensured that it has come about This is the argument presented by Michelle Alexander in The New Jim Crow It becomes a compelling argument once it is recognised that publicly expressed intentions especially political intentions have little to do with national purposeThe American ‘War on Drugs’ is a central example of the phenomenon Illegal drug usage was on the decline in the US in the 1970’s The expressed political intention was to eliminate it entirely from American society The real purpose was revealed only as the accompanying intentions of Black Ops in Central America Conservative reaction to Great Society and Civil Rights legislation and unresolved racial hatred began to interact The behavioral purpose was coherent and deadly the short term destruction of Black communities through the introduction of crack cocaine and associated criminality; and the long term political disenfranchisement of Black citizens through legislation that denies voting and a range of other fights to drug crime felonsThe purposeful results of the war have been remarkable and remarkably unnoticed politically in America What politician can stand against drug legislation while the war against drugs still rages? What liberal intellectual can deny the continuing impoverishment and dependency on public assistance in the Black community? And even in those organisations meant to promote the cause of Black euality like the NAACP would it not be fatal for the future of affirmative action if they were to align with a ‘weak’ stance on crime? A perfect sociological storm therefore one might almost say conspiracy and who knows it may well be It is important to understand that the national purpose has nothing to do with the reduction of crime Criminality is part of the purpose Alexander says “The term mass incarceration refers not only to the criminal justice system but also to the larger web of laws rules policies and customs that control those labeled criminals both in and out of prison Once released former prisoners enter a hidden underworld of legalized discrimination and permanent social exclusion They are members of America’s new undercaste” This undercaste is in fact a new way to legitimate racial oppression That is its purpose regardless of intention Only when someone like Alexander articulates this sort of implicit purpose is it possible to do something about itThe new undercaste in other words is no accident; it is imposed subservience slavery by other means This is clear if one looks at the history of Black oppression in America Alexis de Toueville as usual provides a convenient datum from the mid nineteenth century “The Negro race will never leave those shores of the American continent to which it was brought by the passions and the vices of Europeans; and it will not disappear from the New World as long as it continues to exist The inhabitants of the United States may retard the calamities which they apprehend but they cannot now destroy their efficient cause” In this context The New Jim Crow is but the latest attempt to retard and destroy The journey from indentured bondage to slavery to violent segregation to criminal servitude is one of continuously pursued purpose This is the real Deep State ConspiracyPostscript I am once again struck with the ability of literature to anticipate science in the articulation of social issues In this case a novel such as Hubert Selby’s Last Exit to Brooklyn elaborates just the kind of criminilisation of a social group through the directed use of law than 50 years before Alexander’s analysis See


  6. says:

    You need to read this I don’t pretend to have a terribly high opinion of the US Like Australia it is a settler society that really needs to reconcile and make amends with its own past For instance until very recently the US had a holocaust museum but no museum to slavery The history of slavery and of Jim Crow is a stain that marks the entire sweep of US history – and that stain is red because it is in bloodThe problem is that since the US has never reconciled itself with its past it finds it impossible to see how the stereotypes and common sense assumptions that pervade its national consciousness remain profoundly racist In fact a large part of the point of this book is to show that ‘colour blind’ visions of US race relations today are perhaps the largest problem facing people of colour From slavery to Jim Crow to the criminalisation of black America the thing that makes the new racial system so effective is that it is hidden in plain sightEffectively the US has an injustice system rather than a justice system I mean the system is constructed to create criminals it is created to destroy lives – and it does so in ways that make the pathways of escape from the systematic injustices of ‘law and order’ so narrow that hardly anyone can make it through Well when I say that that only really applies if you are black or brown White people are much less likely to be caught in the structural traps set by the criminal injustice system – but hasn’t that always been thus?The problem is the ‘war on drugs’ By any measure – well other than counting the wealth of the owners of private prisons in the US and criminalising huge numbers of black and brown people – the war on drugs has been an abject failure The US now has a uarter of the people imprisoned in the world It is uite amusing hearing people from the US go on about their love of freedom – it displays a level of double speak that would make Orwell blush But the war on drugs has been used most effectively to put black and brown America back in their place after the Civil Rights victories of the 1950s and 60s As the author points out repeatedly here whites and blacks use drugs at similar rates they commit most crimes at similar rates although there is evidence that whites are actually likely than blacks to use drugs however the social stereotypes are that blacks are the drug users and drug dealers and that stereotype is then realised in the way blacks are treated by the police force and then by the criminal justice system and then by the prison system and finally in how they are treated after they leave the prison system A white person caught with drugs is treated better by the criminal justice system at every single stage than a black person is They are less likely to be arrested in the first place less likely to get a conviction less likely to end up in jail – and all of this while being just as likely to commit the crime But the system has been so rigged by its assertion of ‘colour blindness’ that even the profiling that clearly happens and the disparities in sentencing that are blindingly obvious cannot even be complained about since everyone already knows that ‘racism doesn’t exist’ any – I mean President Obama was black wasn’t he?I’m not going to list the examples she gives throughout this of the jaw droppingly horrible treatment of people – I kept finding myself making involuntary noises throughout reading this Honestly there were points in this so shocking I almost laughed out loud it was like something from an incredibly poor taste comedy show – you know called Justice in America The chapter where she details how police are encouraged to confiscate ‘the proceeds of crime’ is so disturbing that Kafka could have written it No in fact Kafka would probably think it was too over the top and so even he might have shied away from writing itThe worst of this is that it isn’t all that clear to me how the gross injustices detailed in this book are ever going to be overcome Defining blacks as criminals has been a master stroke – I mean it makes it nearly impossible for even the left to support the mostly black men who have had their citizenship rights removed from them – being someone who supports blacks is bad enough but someone who supports criminals? Who is going to do that? Potentially not even fellow blacks Really this book would make you weep A part of this where I made one of my little noises was where she said that prisons are often placed out in the country you know where mostly white people live – where the prisoners then swell the local population but since they are prisoners where they aren’t allowed to vote This gives these mostly white areas representative power given their larger population and it simultaneously takes representative power away from the black neighbourhoods were the prisoners would otherwise live Three fifths compromise anyone? Yep it’s just like being back in the good ol’ days when a black person’s vote was worth only three fifths of that of a white person’s – the things changeThe use of shame to keep black people in their place is particularly disturbing but has proven stunningly effective This book is a case study in discussing how effectively shame can be deployed as a form of symbolic violence against an entire populationLike I said this really needs to be compulsory reading Once again I’ve come away from reading a book utterly despising both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama Sure I would be forced to support either of them before Trump – but the harm they both did as Presidents is beyond disgusting


  7. says:

    The New Jim Crow is essential reading for Americans who don't or haven't followed these issues closely over the last 30 years It's a well organized thoughtful accessible read neither too light or too cluttered with footnotes If you have followed the reasons for and impacts of the US approach to incarceration on the African American community and be honest with yourself on whether you've read a few WashingtonPost or Atlantic Magazine articles from time to time or really dug in over time on the data and history there's little new here but it's a good reminder and summary anyway If you want to wake up friends or colleagues about the reality of the so called War on Drugs mandatory minimums 3 strikes laws disparities in sentencing between users of powder cocaine vs users of crack cocaine and other salient facts covered in The New Jim Crow you might find it even effective to invite them to watch The 13th a Netflix documentary with you It does an even powerful job of communicating the same fundamental facts with the added bonus of Alexander Angela Davis Jelani Cobb Henry Louis Gates Newt Gingrich and others speaking directly to the viewer


  8. says:

    I grew up in Chicago so I am well aware of how race can divide a city I've lived it seen it the good and the bad There are no problems harder to solve then sociological ones One can mandate changes change the laws make and things people say and do illegal butit doesn't change the way they think change their long held beliefs inborn prejudices and biases Why I believe things only change on the surface looks like we're making progress but look underneath and you'll find something else thereThis book looks underneath to a system that though it has changed focus has been in place for a very long time The statistics are staggering the arguments well presented and thoughtfully explained Not sure I agree with everything she presents nor how she does it but it is eye opening definitely makes one think John Legend is now leading a movement to have rights restored to convicted felons So many of those that are black and brown in jail for drug charges many for marijusnz which is now legal n many states When they get out they are not really free hard to find a job if not I'm possible stripped of their rights they turn back to crime What else can they do? Where can they go? I plan to read later this month American Jail as a follow up to this one I have though had great success with listening to non fiction audio books I'm enjoying them now I think this narrator was very good and that this was the perfect platform for this scholarly written book A strong eye opening read that hopefully will provide room for thought basic understanding for those who read


  9. says:

    No black people aren't the majority in our American prisons because they're likely to commit crimes They're there because the War on Drugs has been applied to them freuently than any other racial group Give a damn people Read this book and stop lying to yourselves


  10. says:

    It is Michelle Alexander's experience as a lawyer which makes this such a successful piece It is not novelty that makes this book so profound but the authority upon which the argument is made simple statistics and inarguable facts In the very beginning Mrs Alexander states for whom this book was written people who have a hard time convincing friends neighbors and others that there is something oddly familiar with the current order She has done this perfectly and thus I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a hard time convincing others that the current state of Blackamerica is not due to a mortalcultural flaw but instead stems from a perfect storm of institutional control that perhaps was initially well intended but at present insist upon maintaining a status uo that has decimated the African American community and is doing the same to our Latino brothers and sisters I was both vindicated and saddened in finding evidence from a lawyer in confirmation of my understanding that the United States Supreme Court particularly the current make up has been a friend to the political and economic elite of this country an enemy to the politically impotent masses and a main obstacle against any meaningful change in society at large It was both shocking and appauling to see that the chief justices in the land acknowledging the existence of corrosive racism that has become inherent in the criminal justice system while refusing to do anything but maintain the status uo since the only viable solution would be to dismantle the system something which they deemed impossible Once we reach that level of protectionism by the very same institution that is supposed to be the ultimate check on executive and legislative authority what is left but a complete overhaul of the system dare I say revolution? The only criticism I have is that in her initial summary of the chapter contents she seems to often have simply copied key sentences word for word which is rather annoying but minimal and easily forgotten Stylistically it made for a redundancy and the book perhaps would have been better off without any foreshadowing summaries at all current and future authors take note It has always been my person theory that most conspiracies are not concocted in smokey backrooms but simply come into existence when particular interests converge and work towards the same goal in a previously established order In short what you have before you is the anatomy of just such a conspiracy and an uncomfortable reality that needs to be first acknowledged before we can ever begin to talk about social racial and economic justice in the United States in any meaningful way