Hi all. Thanks for joining in on this collective read of Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow. The conversation will take place in comments below. You can tackle any angle as long as you've done the reading. That last part bears some emphasis—this conversation is for people who are reading The New Jim Crow. If you haven't done the reading for the week, please refrain from commenting. Please respect the space of people who've actually put in the hours.
I'd like to start off the discussion with some brief thoughts on Chapter 1 and the Introduction. I can't remember a book that's brought more attention to a particular societal injustice in recent years. This is a credit to the intellectual courage of Michelle Alexander. Alexander is direct and frank about the influence of white supremacy in our history and in our society, and refuses to hem and haw in the name of an empty "moderation." I suspect it's that direct and frank approach that has attracted so many readers to her case. Should any sanity enter our sentencing laws over the next few years, some portion of the credit will likely belong to The New Jim Crow.
Activists and writers have long argued that there are "racist elements" or "racist injustices" embedded in our current crisis of mass incarceration. Alexander would have us push this claim much further, arguing that mass incarceration is "a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow." She disarms the popular notion that it is somehow wrong to discuss a modern Jim Crow in the age of Barack Obama, noting that "no other country in the world imprisons so many of its racial or ethnic minorities. The United States imprisons a a larger percentage of its black population then South Africa did at the height of apartheid." In Alexander's rendering Jim Crow didn't die so much as it mutated.