Download kindle The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of ColorblindnessAuthor Michelle Alexander – Blockdiagramwiring.co
5 stars for in depth, persuasive and eye opening analysis of complex and important issues In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander argues that the war on drugs and its consequent incarceration of a disproportionate number of black American men amounts to a new form of racialized social control akin to the Jim Crow laws She does an extraordinary job reviewing history, the different branches of the legal system, and the economic, social and political circumstances of black Americans today She does a particularly skilful job of anticipating arguments against her thesis, responding to each one with careful and persuasive analysis She acknowledges that she does not have a clear roadmap to address the new Jim Crow, but she offers some good starting points This book was published in 2010, but it seems particularly timely now I listened to this as an audio It doesn t make for entertaining listening it s not a book based on anecdote, flashy drama or humour but it reminded me of some of my favourite university courses courses that had the ability to shift and challenge my way of seeing things As I listened to this audio book, I couldn t help thinking that it s unfortunate that current political debate is so far removed from this level of analysis and thoughtfulness. Criminal PurposeIntention is not the equivalent 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 frequently 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 ugly.The stated intention of the American legal system is equal 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 purpose.The 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 felons.The 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 equality 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 saysThe 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 it.The 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 Toqueville, as usual, provides a convenient datum from the mid nineteenth centuryThe 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 causeIn 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 Conspiracy.Postscript 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 lawthan 50 years before Alexander s analysis See 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 Parole As 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 Critique, 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 When the United States now has a prison population of nearly the same size and proportion as Stalinist Russia during the Great Purges, you know there s something deeply wrong with this country We have 760 per 100,000, the Soviets had 800 1.6 million people out of 300 million are in prison today in America The Gulag held 1.7 million in 1953 That sthan all of Hawaii This population includes almost 100,000 minors, and even an increasing proportion of the elderly.How did this happen Racial prejudice through law is not new, of course After the end of slavery, southern Democrats enforced racist laws, effectively cutting off the newly freed populations from voting rights, jury duty, and so forth This was the first Jim Crow.There was a brief refuge with the Kennedy and Johnson administrations of the 1960s, and the civil rights movement The Voting Rights Act killed the first Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Bill and desegregation did too However, after the assassinations of the late 1960s, when JFK and RFK and the Reverend King and Malcolm X all fell, bloodied martyrs, war riots and a fear of the loss of public order choked the American public.In 1968, Richard Nixon promised them law and order, to be tough on crime He used covertly racist advertising, setting the inner city and the peacenik against the silent majority He began the War on Drugs Then came Ronald Reagan, who described welfare fraud, and whipped up racist panic about crack babies, crack heads, gangbangers His stories were lies Drug usage was on the decline among black communities when he made his first self righteous crusades in 1982 But here, the laws were biased, punishing crack over powder cocaine Crack was cheap, favored by blacks, and cocaine, used by whites, was not as heavily prosecuted The majority of drug users are white being the majority of the population but the majority of those imprisoned are black.What is the state of drugs today Drug abuse dependence among white and black youth is roughly equal, 8% as of 2013 However, blacks are ten timeslikely to be apprehended by whites It has remained at this point since the beginning of the drug war, and even after the exponential increase in police spending in the drug war How is the new Jim Crow implemented beyond drugs First, through searches and seizures, and the dismantling of the 4th amendment Second, through the pressures of the judicial system Third, through the extremely harsh treatment which these prisoners now receive.The legal protections of the fourth amendment have been largely curtailed in the drug war Property can be confiscated and homes invaded on unproven allegations Material self interest allows law enforcement to target anyone, anywhere, for any reason The judicial system has been complicit in this new aggressive policy Mandatory minimum sentencing has led to disproportionately long sentences for even minor counts of personal possession Heavy mandatory penalties against non violent offenders e.g., fifty years prison for minor amounts of personal possession, are now upheld by the Supreme Court So there goes the Eighth amendment as well.Government privatization of the prison system, with market incentives gone perversely wrong When prisons are privatized, what is their means of making a profit Tacit support of tough on crime laws, increasing prisoner intake, earning a profit by cutting out amenities, keeping their guests there as long as possible Imagine a hotel with mandatory attendance, how else would they make money Twenty years ago, former prisoners could at least earn a living with manufacturing jobs They d stay out of the customers eyes Now, these jobs have vanished What s left are those jobs at the very bottom, or nothing at all This is the Gulag Archipelago of our age It is a hidden state within a state, where we dump our poor, our tired, our huddled masses This book is essential reading, not just for the activist or the politician, or the social worker, not even only for those in poverty who know this already, but the average American voter It is time to stand up against the George Wallaces and Jan Brewers and Joe Arpaios of the world Time for the Freedom Riders of history to march again against bigotry, and this time to fight for alasting place in the sun. No, black people aren t the majority in our American prisons because they relikely to commit crimes They re there because the War on Drugs has been applied to themfrequently than any other racial group Give a damn, people Read this book and stop lying to yourselves. 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, makeandthings people say and do illegal, but..it 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 there.This 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. 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 eveneffective to invite them to watch The 13th a Netflix documentary with you It does an evenpowerful 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. 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 mortal cultural 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 quo 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 quo 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. 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 isthan convincing and, as she admits, its lesson isthan 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. 1988 English 201 I was a college freshman, required 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 States.Michelle 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 quite 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 requires 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 consequences 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 frequent 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 phasesThe 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 inThe 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 scarcelyrights, 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 ignored.Michelle 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 incarceration and those who have been struggling to persuade their friends, neighbors, relatives, teachers, co workers, or political representativesbut 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 question, 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 prerequisite 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.