I've moved away from the discussion/commentary structure of my previous posts in this series to instead just listing the main sources that Alexander cites, along with the facts they reference. My impression has been that most people reading this series are scrolling through for relevant information to aid their own research. Hopefully formatting each post to more clearly focus on the sources and facts will be more helpful.]
In Chapter 3, Alexander focuses her attention on the racial disparities between groups in the criminal justice system that cannot be explained by higher rates of crime, drugs, or other factors. Here are the major talking points and some of the evidence she offers in support:
[caption id="attachment_808" align="alignnone" width="787"] Accessed through the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries[/caption]
The cat is out of the bag, so to speak, when it comes to criminal justice in America. While police still rank among the most trusted institutions in American society, public confidence in the police has nevertheless hit a 20-year low. Outcries surrounding the deaths of people like Michael Brown and Eric Garner only scratch the surface of a much larger barrage of viral videos, personal accounts, and troubling statistics that have gripped the public imagination in recent years. The effects of such sweeping indictments against the criminal justice system are impossible to fully predict. But it’s safe to say they aren’t going away.
In the midst of this public controversy, I find myself torn between two opposing factions — factions that don’t really exist but can seem quite real in the midst of heated rhetoric. On one side are the marginalized and oppressed. On the other side are police. In reality, neither of these factions exist. If you were to ask the average American whether they belong to one of these sides, they would say something like, “I don’t, but those people do.” They are factions that allow us to demonize the other side while pretending to be neutral ourselves. And they are tearing us apart.
Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness is fast becoming a favorite on my Kindle shelf. I’ve been slowly making my way through each chapter, researching her citations, and sharing my notes as I go.
In Chapter 1, Alexander argues that America’s “War on Drugs” and “tough on crime” legislation emerged as a new form of racial control, directly opposing the gains of the Civil Rights Movement. She presents compelling evidence to back up her claims, starting with the history of reconstruction, working through the Civil Rights Movement, and then examining the major political movements that followed. Here are a few major talking points that stood out from Chapter 1:
Even though it was only published six years ago, Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness turns up in everything I read nowadays about systemic injustice. After reading yet another article that referenced this book, I finally decided to take the plunge and read it myself.
Given our current cultural context, I expect this book to be highly thought-provoking and intensely controversial. I’ve decided to blog out my thoughts from chapter to chapter in an effort to spark more discussion in my social circles surrounding the issues that Alexander tackles.