Monday, December 21, 2020

Book Review: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Published: January 5, 2010
Publisher: The New Press Inc.
Received: purchased
Read from October 31 to November 22, 2020

Summary from Goodreads:

"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 them.

In 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 U.S. 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.


This book is a decade old, but it is still relevant to the current situation in the United States. Really, it's quite striking how much that is true. The book was published not long after Barack Obama became president, and references to that are made in the book. Now, after another Obama term and a Trump one, this book is as true as ever.

Much of what is covered in this book are things that I've already known from other reading, but that didn't make it any less compelling. Alexander has done a great job of providing data about the current state of incarceration in the United States. I know this saying has become quite cliche, but this book should be required reading. These are things that every American should be aware of, yet too few are.

I highly encourage everyone to pick up this book.

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