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Race & Ethnicity

Race & Ethnicity

The New Jim Crow

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.

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New Mexico Immigration Battle Breaks Out

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"This order takes the handcuffs off of New Mexico law enforcement officers in their mission to keep our communities safe," Governor Martinez said in a statement.

Kent Paterson, New America Media

Low Income Readers:  If you are on a tight budget, don't send cash! Just forward articles to your friends - and non-Progressives too ;) - and we need help building our Evergreene Digest community, you can invite your Facebook friends, that's a big help too. We are proud to have you with us.

After barely a month in office, New Mexico Republican Governor Susana Martinez is at logger-heads with immigrant advocates and organizations. In every corner of the Land of Enchantment, immigrant organizations and their supporters are protesting an executive order signed by Martinez this week that orders New Mexico police to report all arrested undocumented persons to federal immigration authorities.

Put into effect on January 31, Executive Order 2011-009 recognizes that while it is not the responsibility of state law enforcement to enforce federal immigration statutes, New Mexico police must comply with sworn duties to uphold all laws and "cooperate and communicate with federal authorities."

"This order takes the handcuffs off of New Mexico law enforcement officers in their mission to keep our communities safe," Governor Martinez said in a statement.

More...

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Reagan Was No Friend of Blacks

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  • Michael Reagan can absurdly twist history to make his father a paragon of civil rights. But Reagan was hardly the "best friend" of blacks.
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  • CBS almost reported Reagan was mentally unfit in 1986
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Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Huffington Post

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It is no surprise that former President Reagan's son, conservative political consultant Michael Reagan, would add his unabashed and wildly inaccurate historical revisionism about Reagan to his absolutely ridiculous assertion in a Fox News Op-Ed piece that dad, Reagan was a "better friend of blacks" than President Obama. Normally that would be the cause for hysterical laughter except that that fits in with the inevitable sanitizing of former President Reagan's image and legacy -- as the nation approaches the centennial commemoration of Reagan's birth in February.

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Race is exactly the one issue that Mike can make absolutely no claim to truth about Reagan on. Reagan and Reagan officials waged a by now well-documented open war against civil rights leaders and did everything politically possible to roll back civil rights gains during his eight years in office. That war began months before he took office. At his now infamous presidential kick-off campaign rally at Neshoba, Mississippi in 1980, held virtually a stone throw from where the three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964, Reagan shouted to a lily white crowd that "I believe in states' rights." He laced his campaign speech with stock racial code words and phrases, blasting welfare, big government, federal intrusion in state affairs, and rampant federal spending. The message was that if elected he'd not only say and do as little as possible to offend the white South, but actively undermine civil rights. At his first press conference the week after his inauguration, Reagan lashed out at affirmative action programs. He told reporters, "I'm old enough to remember when quotas existed in the United States for purposes of discrimination and I don't want to see that again."

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CBS almost reported Reagan was mentally unfit in 1986, David Edwards, Raw Story

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  • "I now believe [Reagan aides and his wife Nancy] covered up his condition, and many continued to as they wrote their memoirs. But then, the public knew something wasn't right. There were all sorts of signs. We all looked the other way," Leslie Stahl concluded in her book.
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  • Mission Accomplished: The Reagan Occupation and the Destruction of the American Middle Class
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  • How Republicans created the myth of Ronald Reagan
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Virginia United Against Oppression

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  • Virginia United Against Oppression says it aims to stop "all out assault" on undocumented people and workers in the Commonwealth.
    Organizers point to the widespread outrage expressed over similar legislation last year in Arizona, and plan to be beat legislators to the punch in Virginia.
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  • A New Year, A New Fight
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  • Republicans Hope to Trample Constitution With Racist New Proposals
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Socialist WebZine

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A new group called Virginia United Against Oppression has formed a statewide campaign in Virginia to fight racist anti-immigration and anti-worker rights legislation in the General Assembly. The group has organizers statewide building a campaign against the "massive attack on all people living in Virginia".

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The 7 anti-immigrant bills are expected to move through the short session of the General Assembly over the next two weeks, ostensibly to get them to the floor before public opposition is increased.

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A similar process exists for the bills pertaining to workers rights.

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Activists and citizens are mobilizing across the state to bring attention to this these issues pointing out that:

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A New Year, A New Fight, Reform Immigration for America

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  • The GOP has introduced legislation to eliminate birthright citizenship, a right granted by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
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  • Report: 130 Republicans In Congress Want To Consider Ending Birthright Citizenship
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  • Republicans Hope to Trample Constitution With Racist New Proposals
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Republicans Hope to Trample Constitution With Racist New Proposals, Ian Millhiser, ThinkProgress
For the last two years, conservatives have flouted their disdain for the Constitution <http://thinkprogress.org/2010/11/15/scalia-seventeenth/>and their desire to effectively replace it with a Tea Party manifesto. Sadly, they appear to be wasting no time after last November’s election in declaring war on the nation’s founding document.

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January's racist Elle cover

Tell Elle to ends its practice of racist skin-whitening and apologize

Judith Meskill, Change.org

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Indian actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan appears on the January cover of Elle magazine, but she's outraged by the image. Her skin appears far more pale than it is in real life. Her dark brown hair is shown to be practically red.

Elle claims to celebrate women of color by featuring them on magazine covers, but this is the second time in just six months that Elle has blatantly made women of color more white. (The last controversy surrounded Precious actress Gabourey Sidibe.)

For better or worse, publications like Elle play a huge role in determining global standards of beauty -- especially for young girls and teenagers who read it. It sends a cruel and dangerous message to women of color everywhere when Elle manipulates the skin color of one of India's most famous actresses just so she can appear on a magazine cover.

Here's our opportunity: Elle is a business that cares more about its bottom line and public image than anything else. To change their behavior -- and send a message that reverberates through the whole fashion industry -- we need a public outcry.

Join Change.org members in telling Elle Magazine to ends its practice of racist skin-whitening.

India already has a billion-dollar skin-whitening industry. Many women burn their skin through the use of unsafe whitening products. And there's a pervasive prejudice against girls who are "too dark" and therefore can't get hired or married.

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A global publication like Elle has no business reinforcing that racist and damaging stereotype. Elle suffered from some bad press when the magazine cover came out, but there still needs to be a massive public campaign to force them to take real action. This is that campaign.

Tell Elle that women don't have to be white to be beautiful – and to apologize for its offensive doctoring of its cover models.

Thanks for taking action.

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