For Christmas 2014, I asked for Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow. It is 300+ pages of dense notes exposing racial disparities in the United States’ criminal justice system. Not exactly light reading or a cheerfully seasonal gift. But the text’s importance is urgent, and I am slowly but surely working my way through all six chapters.
I am going to highlight some of the quotes that stood out most to me in these posts, and maybe reflect on some more than others. If you are a racially conscious person, who desires to learn more about our nation that what our history textbooks taught us, please read this book. You can buy it here: The New Jim Crow
Highlights to think about from the introduction:
- Alexander cites Thomas P. Boncszar’s estimation in “Prevalence of Imprisonment in the U.S. Population, 1974-2001” and articulates: “One in three young African American men will serve time in prison if current trends continue, and in some cities more than half of all young adult black men are currently under correctional control- in prison or jail, on probation or parole” (p. 9, 265).
- “Racial caste systems do not require hostility or overt bigotry to thrive. They need only racial indifference, as Martin Luther King Jr. warned more than forty-five years ago” (p. 14).
- “The fate of millions of people- indeed the future of the black community itself- may depend on the willingness of those who care about racial justice o re-examine their basic assumptions about the role of the criminal justice system in our society” (p.16).
- “The system of mass incarceration is based on the prison label, not prison time” (p. 14).
- “If the movement that emerges to challenge mass incarceration fails to confront squarely the critical role of race in the basic structure of our society, and if it fails to cultivate an ethic of genuine care, compassion, and concern for every human being- of every class, race, and nationality- within our nation’s borders (including poor whites, who are often pitted against poor people of color), the collapse of mass incarceration will not mean the death of racial caste in America” (pp.18-19).