OK, so you couldn’t afford the almost $30 hardback, right? Or you didn’t think there was anything new to learn about the “new” Jim Crow that you’d not already experienced or at least read about? Or, perhaps, you’d never heard of Michelle Alexander and didn’t really care to know who she is.
As a tutor of ex-offenders, I became aware of Alexander and her book when it was first published in 2010. I saw her on various TV shows, including Democracy Now with Amy Goodman, Bill Moyers’ Journal, and Charlie Rose. I heard her on various “liberal” and/or black talk radio shows. And then there is YouTube. Hell, she’s all over the net. Do yourself a favor. Look her up.
I did not walk, but ran to Borders (now defunct, of course) and plunked down my hard-earned dollars for a pristine copy of what has to be the seminal work of our time on “race relations” in the United States. I then reviewed the book at Voxunion.com and DissidentVoice.org. That review only covered a small piece of her argument because of space limitations. Now that the book is in paperback, here I will hopefully convince you to not just buy the book, but devour it, make it a piece of your essence, appreciate the insight and deep understanding with which this legal scholar has deigned to grace us all.
The New Jim Crow tells the story of modern-day slavery in these United States. But not only that, with excruciating detail, Alexander explains why black people, particularly black men, are, have been, and remain “Public Enemy No. 1” in this republic since its very foundation.
She goes far beyond description, however, and offers concrete, doable, practical solutions to this problem. She takes us into the culture, politics, economics and mind of the so-called “white ethnic” and explores why he or she, to this day, cannot and will not accept black people as fellow human beings.
Alexander’s jumping-off point is, of course, the 40-year-old “War on Drugs.” She piles the statistics high in exploding the myth that blacks – black men – do and sell more illegal drugs than their white counterparts. She takes us inside the prison walls, right into the cellblocks, and into the suffocating cells themselves. She shows, rather than tells, how drug laws and their enforcement have always been a question of “who” was using, who was selling – not what was being used or sold.
Black ghettoes across the country have been deliberately, consciously, targeted – targeted for continued failure and dysfunction – since Ronald Wilson Reagan allowed his CIA and other “law enforcement” agencies to do just that: deliberately, consciously target black people.
And, anyone pinning their hopes on Obama to "address" this issue is chasing after fool's gold. Alexander shows how he is just as bought and sold as the rest of them...as all of them. The "drug war" has now assumed a life of its own and is so deeply ingrained into the American ethos that it will take nothing short of a full blown revolution to stop it, and then reverse its devastating effects on every black community in America.
Alexander makes the huge point that the language of white supremacy/racism has been updated, adjusted, changed to meet the faux "colorblind" tale. It's not blindness to color, she writes, but blindness to an intractable, protracted regime of injustice, discrimination-on-the-quiet side, and a steady herding of black men and boys into a lifetime of poverty and desperation.
Again, if you care about social justice, equality, freedom – all that good stuff – then don’t just read this book. Get mad at your government. Demand that this war end now.
The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander, The New Press, New York, 2012