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The New Jim Crow

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Thanks to legal scholar and professor Michelle Alexander1 we now have a new book that explains how we ended up with a criminal justice system that targets and endangers Black communities, as well as ideas on what we can do to free ourselves from that system’s clutches.

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James Rucker, ColorOfChange.org

This article is made possible with the contributions of readers like you. Thank you!

We’ve all heard the statistics, and most of us have simply become numb to hearing them. For many people, the over-incarceration of Black people is simply a fact of life. It shouldn’t be.

Thanks to legal scholar and professor Michelle Alexander1 we now have a new book that explains how we ended up with a criminal justice system that targets and endangers Black communities, as well as ideas on what we can do to free ourselves from that system’s clutches.

When we put the book — The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness — in the hands of 20 ColorOfChange members to review, the response was unanimous. In addition to giving the book glowing reviews, they all wanted the entire ColorOfChange community to know about it.

It’s why we’re now inviting you to get your own copy (and one for your friends or family as well), as well as participate in a conference call with Professor Alexander in the new year to discuss it.

You can get your copy here.

Professor Alexander’s book outlines the evolution of drug laws and how their ongoing effects on Black America parallel the role that segregation played in the period following the Civil War and preceding the Civil Rights Movement.2 And it raises questions about what it will take to build a movement that can reform the broken drug laws that fuel high incarceration rates.

Criminal justice reform is key to our community — a third of Black men will spend part of their lives in prison,3 and Black children are more than six times more likely to have a parent incarcerated than White children.4 ColorOfChange members have demonstrated time and again that they want to change the status quo. More than 59,000 ColorOfChange members called on Congress to remove the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, and nearly 25,000 sent a statement to Senator James Webb of Virginia, thanking him for his attempts to overhaul our approach to incarceration.

We believe — and the ColorOfChange members who read and reviewed the book agreed — that the book will help us, as everyday people, stand with even more power to advocate for change. Ms. Alexander is herself a longtime member of ColorOfChange.org, and she’s agreed to speak with those of you who read the book, and answer any questions you have. We’ll contact you again early in the new year with more information about how to participate in that conference call, which is sure to be informative and powerful.

Here’s what ColorOfChange.org members are saying about The New Jim Crow:

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“This book explains how this new Jim Crow came to be and how deeply ingrained it is now in the American psyche. Unless we really understand how this happened, we’ll never break this vicious cycle of African-American overincarceration… How many family members of prisoners lie about their relatives in the penal system in an effort to mitigate the stigma of criminality? This system penalizes entire families. [The book] was such an eye opener."
— Irma, Washington, DC

“This book will give you a good understanding of the system, its historical roots, its origins in the War on Drugs, the complicity of the police and legal system leading to mass incarceration of people of color, and the tragic result of creating a permanent caste system based on color. It opened my eyes and stirred my soul.“
— Larry, Freeland, WA

“This isn’t a fight for the lawyers. This is a fight for regular people, the non-experts, the advocates, the sympathizers, the human beings who care and want to care more. Fertile ground for change is wherever we are, however we are, and accessible to those of us with less than sizable monetary wealth or a law degree.”
— Thuha, Fountain Valley, CA

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For more on The New Jim Crow and to get your copy, click here.

Thanks and Peace,

-- James, Gabriel, William, Dani, Natasha and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
December 9th, 2010

References:

1. “The New Jim Crow,” article by Michelle Alexander in Mother Jones, 03-08-2010

2. “Legal Scholar Michelle Alexander on ‘The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness’,” Democracy Now, 03-11-2010

3. “Too Long Ignored,” New York Times, 8-20-2010

4. “Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility,” Pew Charitable Trusts, 9-2010

Additional resources:

“More than 1 in 100 U.S. adults are in prison,” New York Times, 2-29-2008

Related:

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness ~ Michelle Alexander
A bold and innovative argument that mass incarceration amounts to a devastating system of racial control, by a rising legal star.