This is a must-read book.
I knew I was ignorant about parts of my country’s history (regarding slavery, the Civil Rights movement, Supreme Court legal precedents, etc), but I didn’t how just how much I didn’t know.
Title – The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Author – Michelle Alexander
Page count – 248
At first I was skeptical and thought this book would give off conspiracy theory vibes. I mean, it seems utterly impossible that we could be using our criminal justice system to oppress an entire group of people in the same way that Jim Crow laws were explicitly racially discriminatory. That, my friends, is where the issue of “colorblindness” comes in. Because no one wants to think of themselves as racist, as long as laws are officially race-neutral, the implementation of those laws can be done in a biased way that effectively discriminates based on race.
This book covers a variety of issues related to mass incarceration and more specifically the “War on Drugs” that began in the 1980s: from arresting, convicting, and sentencing, to civil forfeiture laws, implicit bias, and the piecemeal gutting of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. Additionally, if we’re looking at long-term effects, it is the loss of rights – to vote and serve on a jury – and legal discrimination in housing and employment faced by people convicted of felonies that effectively sentence people to second-class citizenship for the rest of their lives.
I dog-eared too many pages to feature just one or two passages. Instead I’ll leave you with a couple Youtube videos. The first is about how to be a good ally by a writer and comedian who often addresses race in her videos. The second is by a creator who usually covers math-related topics. She uses her usual fast-paced style to address a heavy, often misunderstood issue: the #BlackLivesMatter movement.