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The New Jim Crow

The New Jim Crow

Written by Michelle Alexander

Narrated by Karen Chilton


The New Jim Crow

Written by Michelle Alexander

Narrated by Karen Chilton

ratings:
5/5 (346 ratings)
Length:
16 hours
Released:
Apr 13, 2012
ISBN:
9781464048258
Format:
Audiobook

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EbookSnapshot

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Editor's Note

Leading a revolution…

Alexander makes her case that the War on Drugs created a new racial caste system in a highly readable and compelling way. This provocative work has shifted how we think about civil rights and prison reform.

Description

Civil rights advocate and accomplished lawyer Michelle Alexander broaches a topic worthy of national conversation. Alexander argues that criminals convicted by our justice system face the same obstacles- legal discrimination and disenfranchisement- African Americans faced during the Jim Crow era.
Released:
Apr 13, 2012
ISBN:
9781464048258
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

EbookSnapshot

About the author

Michelle Alexander is a highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, and legal scholar. She is a former Ford Foundation Senior Fellow and Soros Justice Fellow, has clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, and has run the ACLU of Northern California's Racial Justice Project. Alexander is a visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary and an opinion columnist for the New York Times. The author of The New Jim Crow and The New Jim Crow: Young Readers' Edition (both from The New Press), she lives in Columbus, Ohio.


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4.8
346 ratings / 58 Reviews
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Critic reviews

  • This provocative work has shifted how we think about civil rights and prison reform. Alexander makes her case that the War on Drugs created a new racial caste system in a highly readable and compelling way.

    Scribd Editors

Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    What a spectacular book. I was a bit skeptical of the title going in--it's a bit Godwin-esque to compare all racial injustices to slavery and/or Jim Crow. But she addresses that head-on, with a bit of skepticism on her own part. Having recently read The Warmth of Other Suns and seen some of the ways that Jim Crow actually played out in real life, though, I could certainly see the pervasive parallels that Alexander draws here.

    America's prison system is incredibly racist in its implementation, that I knew. But what this book illuminates so well are the facts that (a) the system was transformed along racial lines in a discrete, systematic way and (2) the worst iniquities of our criminal justice system might actually be the lives we force felons into after prison. The concept of "civil death" underlies so many of our laws that pertain to convicted people, and it's all out of proportion to the petty crimes that most of them committed. Beyond which, it has broader implications for the black community that do, indeed, recall Jim Crow.

    Finally, while the final chapter seemed a bit rushed, I did accept a lot of her prescription for where to go from here. It might seem contradictory to say that, on one hand, we can't pretend that the current system is equally harsh to all races, and on the other, that we have to address this in a manner that helps both racial minorities and whites. Her appeal to King's sense that it's time to move beyond civil rights and toward human rights is, I think, dead on.
  • (5/5)
    When the United States now has a prison population of nearly the same size and proportion as Stalinist Russia during the Great Purges, you know there's something deeply wrong with this country. (We have 760 per 100,000, the Soviets had ~800.) 1.6 million people out of 300 million are in prison today in America (The Gulag held 1.7 million in 1953). That's more than all of Hawaii. This population includes almost 100,000 minors, and even an increasing proportion of the elderly.

    How did this happen? Racial prejudice through law is not new, of course. After the end of slavery, southern Democrats enforced racist laws, effectively cutting off the newly freed populations from voting rights, jury duty, and so forth. This was the first Jim Crow.

    There was a brief refuge with the Kennedy and Johnson administrations of the 1960s, and the civil rights movement. The Voting Rights Act killed the first Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Bill and desegregation did too. However, after the assassinations of the late 1960s, when JFK and RFK and the Reverend King and Malcolm X all fell, bloodied martyrs, war riots and a fear of the loss of public order choked the American public.

    In 1968, Richard Nixon promised them law and order, to be 'tough on crime'. He used covertly racist advertising, setting the 'inner city' and the 'peacenik' against the 'silent majority'. He began the War on Drugs. Then came Ronald Reagan, who described welfare fraud, and whipped up racist panic about crack babies, crack heads, gangbangers. His stories were lies. Drug usage was on the decline among black communities when he made his first self-righteous crusades in 1982. But here, the laws were biased, punishing crack over powder cocaine. Crack was cheap, favored by blacks, and cocaine, used by whites, was not as heavily prosecuted. The majority of drug users are white (being the majority of the population) but the majority of those imprisoned are black.

    What is the state of drugs today? Drug abuse/dependence among white and black youth is roughly equal, ~8% as of 2013. However, blacks are ten times more likely to be apprehended by whites It has remained at this point since the beginning of the drug war, and even after the exponential increase in police spending in the drug war.

    How is the new Jim Crow implemented beyond drugs? First, through searches and seizures, and the dismantling of the 4th amendment. Second, through the pressures of the judicial system. Third, through the extremely harsh treatment which these prisoners now receive.

    The legal protections of the fourth amendment have been largely curtailed in the drug war. Property can be confiscated and homes invaded on unproven allegations. 'Material self-interest' allows law enforcement to target anyone, anywhere, for any reason.

    The judicial system has been complicit in this new aggressive policy. Mandatory minimum sentencing has led to disproportionately long sentences for even minor counts of personal possession. Heavy mandatory penalties against non-violent offenders - e.g., fifty years prison for minor amounts of personal possession, are now upheld by the Supreme Court. So there goes the Eighth amendment as well.

    Government privatization of the prison system, with market incentives gone perversely wrong. When prisons are privatized, what is their means of making a profit? Tacit support of 'tough-on-crime' laws, increasing prisoner intake, earning a profit by cutting out amenities, keeping their 'guests' there as long as possible. Imagine a hotel with mandatory attendance, how else would they make money?

    Twenty years ago, former prisoners could at least earn a living with manufacturing jobs. They'd stay out of the customers' eyes. Now, these jobs have vanished. What's left are those jobs at the very bottom, or nothing at all.

    This is the Gulag Archipelago of our age. It is a hidden state within a state, where we dump our poor, our tired, our huddled masses. This book is essential reading, not just for the activist or the politician, or the social worker, not even only for those in poverty who know this already, but the average American voter. It is time to stand up against the George Wallaces and Jan Brewers and Joe Arpaios of the world. Time for the Freedom Riders of history to march again against bigotry, and this time to fight for a more lasting place in the sun.
  • (5/5)
    In this book, Alexander examines the connections between the War on Drugs, racial caste, and disenfranchisement. She lays it all out with stunning clarity.This is one of the most important books I've ever read. In my opinion, it should be required reading for all Americans.
  • (4/5)
    Professor Alexander’s sweeping denunciation and expose of the evils of mass incarceration bring nothing to mind so much as Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Like Jean Valjean, a minority kid busted on a minor drug charge ends up as a felon in prison, then an outcast from our society. Laws and policies deprive him of the right to vote, of public assistance, and even of housing. Mass incarceration is leading to a new racial caste system.But the author goes farther, showing how the misguided War of Drugs has unleashed a militarized police force against poor people of color. At the same time, drug crimes committed by suburban white people largely go unpunished. When detected, white drug offenders are much more likely to be sentenced in state court, where the penalties are much less severe than in the federal system. Alexander argues that the war of drugs would stop tomorrow if it were pursued in white suburbia as diligently as it is in poor communities of color.
  • (5/5)
    Definitive text on the lives of African American males and the institutionalization of segregation and racism from the Old South in America. Alexander painstakingly routes the path from Cornfields to Cell blocks for the black male population in America and the disenfranchisement of a sector of society that was never intended to have the legal vote by the old boy network to start. Do you want to know the plan or path for minorities in this great democracy? Here's a blueprint. Get it, read it, mark it up. It's embedded in the cornerstones of this society.
  • (5/5)
    It took me three years to finish this book--but that really doesn't say much in itself.In the beginning, I found it troublesome to read because of my ignorance. At the end, I found it repetitive. Alright! I get it! But even the ending had factual matter that I wasn't aware of.This IS a book that all of us should read. ALL, as in everyone. No demographic gets a free pass, since, as Alexander so hammers into our heads, there is NO ethnic group, social class, or economic stratum that is untouched by this fact of American society.
  • (5/5)
    Great book! I’ve learn so much about mass incarceration and who it really affects!
  • (4/5)
    ... but if your strategy for racial justice involves waiting for whites to be fair, history suggests it will be a long wait.”

    How do I review this book? How do I even begin to talk about how much this book affected me or how much I learnt from it? I wish I had a physical copy so that I could write in its pages, in the margins, and fill all its blank spaces.

    Michelle Alexander expertly and deftly unpacks a new kind of racism in this book. It's subversive, subconscious and involuntary, reinforced with images of young black men in the media, all of their portrayals fitting a certain stereotype. She talks about how a certain demographic (of young black men) are systematically, consistently and meticulously searched, arrested, tried and convicted of minor drug offences, and put in jail for such lengthy terms that they would shock any other first world country.

    She discusses all the subtle ways in which the American judicial system and its processes are geared against anyone who isn't a young white man, and how all these attitudes and often outlandish laws can be traced back to political or social movements.

    The author can be quite radical and sometimes says I don't necessarily agree with, but she has found facts and data when there reportedly was none, and she knows her shit.

    Alexander admits to the fact that she only had time in her study to talk about young black men, that she had no space to talk about young latino men or young black women or any other person of colour in the book. (Though she urges the reader to write these books and make the information known.) She insists that she painted the study with a broad brush, a time to merely reflect, with few ideas or solutions.

    ... the audiobook is 13 hours long. The book is 300 pages. So despite the fact that she only spoke about young black men, who were often first-time offenders, and had no time to talk about women in the justice system, or latinos or other people of colour but did not run out of things to talk about is astonishing.

    I will say that this book is really dense, and while it is sometimes a lot to take in, I learnt a lot.

    Whether you agree with Alexander's ideas or not, I think this is an important book for anyone to read
  • (5/5)
    Read this book. Read this book. Read this book. Read this book.
  • (5/5)
    Great book and still fighting for todays times. Discussed the history on racial tensions in American from a social economic standpoint and not just a racist point of view.
  • (5/5)
    Arguably one of the most important books of the 21st century. A must read for anyone interested in social policy, public health, or the betterment and restructuring of society to better serve us all and right the wrongs of our current system.
  • (5/5)
    Thoroughly researched and persuasively argued. Very well narrated. Essential reading/listening.
  • (3/5)
    So many good facts...but little great conclusions. Fairly subjective work mostly in line with the author’s ideology.
  • (5/5)
    An excellent book, but be prepared to feel depressed about how the entire system, all the way up to the US Supreme Court, has enlisted racism to fight the “war on drugs.”
  • (5/5)
    Reading this books during the climate we are currently in was much needed. It put so many things into perspective in regards to the war on drugs and our current imprisonment system and how these systems were used to target people of color for so many years. Michelle Alexander does a great job of supporting her book with an insurmountable amount of data and research! This was such a great book!
  • (5/5)
    This book is so informative, if you consider yourself a human rights advocate, this is a must read!
  • (5/5)
    It was provokingly good read! Powerful and enlightening. Highly recommended
  • (5/5)
    Very in-depth and mind blowing! We have so much work to do to dismantle mass incarceration!
  • (5/5)
    Must read for anyone and everyone interested in helping dismantle the US’s oppressive prison industrial complex. Each chapter is filled with more and more horrendous examples of how incredibly flawed our justice system is. This book will make you or keep you fired up in the pursuit of justice.
  • (5/5)
    A - thorough, incisive and revealing book that all black people should read. It should be a must read for all inner city school kids. This book is not just mind-blowing, it is terrifically written and supported with facts and figures to buttress every points made. An instant classic that will be cited for generations to come. I had goosebumps reading it and I will definitely purchase it as gifts for my friends, little cousins and younger stars in high school. Thanks Michelle.
  • (3/5)
    Was good to hear this perspective...thought provoking, but too repetitive.
  • (5/5)
    Amazing, inspiring, full of good information. I fully recommend this book
  • (5/5)
    Written a decade ago and so timely. Even as the world is on fire today. We need to hear where we have been to know where we should go. This book is a great start if you need one.
  • (5/5)
    Yeah, I thought I knew what this was going to be but it was more. If you’ve never thought about mass incarceration, the war on drugs, and the racist roots and impact of each, you should read this.
    If you have already done significant work educating yourself on these topics, I still recommend the book, because the author goes into such detail and makes illuminating connections between different aspects.
  • (4/5)
    This has a lot of good statistics and the author argues her case convincingly. It was particularly interesting for me to see how (intentionally) vague rules can be used as a political tool in America, in this case to allow unconscious racial biases to be brought to the forefront.
  • (5/5)
    The most important book I have read in years.
  • (4/5)
    This is a powerful book on how the criminal "justice" system and which crimes we decide to punish has effectively created a new Jim Crow, where many African Americans serve years of incarceration, have their franchise taken away for life, and suffer from a system designed to punish black and brown people more than white people. I wish everyone in America was aware of what's really going on. Michelle Alexander has put together a compelling set of data that proves her case and serves as a call to action.
  • (5/5)
    This book is incredible and indispensable, but the more I listen the more it seems this version of the audiobook is out of order :(
  • (5/5)
    An important piece of insight into the lives of African Americans
  • (5/5)
    If you're thinking, "Oh, I don't need to read this, I already know about this." YOU ARE SUPER WRONG. I thought, when I saw this book, "What's the point? I already agree with it. What more do I need to know?"

    That was some dumbass hubris on my part. I had very little idea of the full depth of the problem.

    This book should be required reading in high schools across the country. First, because Alexander does a fantastic job walking you through the history and legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and now Mass Incarceration (a much better job than any text I was given to read in high school). I learned so much, and that new knowledge has encouraged me to keep reading, because clearly I know so little!

    Second, the prose and structure of the argument are phenomenal. Alexander expresses herself in a clear, logical way, building on her argument chapter by chapter. It's moving, but also logically persuasive, like all good rhetoric should be. So not only is this book full of valuable historical information, it's a great example of a well written argument.

    Alexander also does a good thing in limiting her discussion, and explaining why she limits it. The book mostly concerns Black men who have been imprisoned due to alleged drug charges. She explains why she limits her scope, and makes it clear that she hopes other people expand on the discussion (which people have since this book was published). Even with her one focused thesis, the problem still spans all of American history and our whole political system, so I think it was a good idea for her to limit the book's discussion to mostly Black men who have been labeled drug criminals.

    Third, even though terms like "mass incarceration" are fairly well known now, I did not understand the breadth and depth of the problem. It's not simply a matter of racial profiling. It's not just police brutality. There is so much more messed up with our justice system. When I started reading this book, I was saying, "Defund the police." Now I'm saying, "Abolish the police."

    Now, the biggest lesson I've learned here is that I know so little, and I'm eager to keep reading, especially the books Alexander mentions in her updated prologue.

    But if you have been putting off reading this book because you think you already know the information it contains, stop! Read it! Right away!

    You'll learn a lot, be forced to think critically, and come away a better informed citizen, not to mention you'll understand yourself, by understanding your social context, better.