Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander

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In a word, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness is stunning. In it, author Michelle Alexander carefully walks the reader through the many legal and law enforcement practices that raise the statistical chances of people of color being incarcerated (most often for minor drug offenses), then, once branded felons, denied civil rights and social services.

Read it to gain a basic understanding of multi-systemic racism in America.

The Summary

African Americans and other people of color are brought into the U.S. criminal justice system at a much higher rate than White people. This mass incarceration can be considered the new Jim Crow–the new system for propagating racism and segregation.

The path to mass incarceration, Alexander writes, includes:

  • Government programs that (handsomely) incentivise local law enforcement agencies to increase drug-related arrests in any way necessary; 
  • Pinpointing poor neighborhoods for random searches and seizures, which should be illegal but through many legal loopholes, now are effectively entirely legal;
  • Using very minor driving offenses as an excuse to search and seize;
  • Inflating penalties for minor drug offenses (such as possession of a small amount of drugs or even being present when drug crimes take place) to frightening (and unconstitutional) levels in order to pressure people to take plea bargains–even people who are entirely innocent of any crime;
  • Removing civil rights, such as the right to vote, from people branded felons;
  • Removing social services, such as child care, food benefits and housing from people branded felons;
  • Allowing places of employment and housing to discriminate based on felon status;
  • and more.

For people of color, the U.S. criminal justice system is a nearly inescapable entrance to a parallel universe in which Constitutional and other rights are systematically removed and thriving is greatly hindered.

About the Author

Michelle Alexander is an American author, lawyer, and legal scholar. She is best known for her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, which was published in 2010. The book critiques the U.S. criminal justice system and argues that mass incarceration functions as a system of racial control, similar to the Jim Crow laws of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Alexander has also written for several prominent publications, including The New York Times, The Nation, and The Colorlines. She is a graduate of Stanford Law School and has taught at a number of universities, including Ohio State University, where she was an associate professor of law.


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  1. This book is definitely worth the discomfort. We need to educate our children so they are not prone to continue racist voting.