The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
By Michelle Alexander
A book about how “the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control…”
It covers the history and structure of mass incarceration, the role of race in the U.S. criminal justice system, the caste system that persists upon release, parallels with Jim Crow, and implications for the future of civil rights advocacy. The main argument is that “we have not ended the racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”
Across six chapters Alexander tells a generational story, vividly depicted and meticulously researched, about the cruelty of our mass incarceration system. She tells the story from many angles, illuminating an outrageous crisis the urgency of which is largely overshadowed by how insidiously it is embedded in our culture. At root the crisis remains: “America is still not an egalitarian democracy.”
Michelle Alexander is a “civil rights lawyer, advocate, and legal scholar”, and in The New Jim Crow she has written “[a]n instant classic”; the “bible of a social movement”. In his foreword, Cornel West calls the book a “grand wake-up call” and “magisterial work”, describing how it traces a “nuanced historical narrative”, including class bias as well as racial bias.
It’s an incredibly important book, one detailed cross-section among many of the inequities that plague our culture still. See also, for example, education, housing, and health care. May all these areas be so expertly illuminated, and may this work continue to spark change.