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Books We Recommend: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Posted on January 7, 2021

At Thrive DC, we strive to promote awareness around issues that our programs and services seek to address. Here is the second book in a series of books that I hope you will find to be an informative and absorbing book to read. If your New Year's resolution was to read more, here's a great book to begin with.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Jarvious Cotton's great-great-grandfather could not vote as an enslaved person. The Ku Klux Klan beat his great-grandfather to death for attempting to vote. Klan intimidation preventing his grandfather from voting; poll taxes and literacy tests barred his father.  Today, Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole.

The United States  seems to celebrate the nation's "triumph over race" with the election of Barack Obama. Yet, the majority of young black American men in US cities are locked behind bars or labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status- much like their grandparents before them.

In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander proactively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the US criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community -- and all of us -- to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.

My thoughts:

If you're looking for an informative and insightful book to start 2021 with, this is the book for you. Michelle Alexander makes the argument that mass incarceration is the new form of oppression in America. Not only does she believe it's the large number of people who are in jail, but it is also the severe curtailment of their rights after incarceration that generates much of the system's hopelessness. Voting restrictions, exclusion from public housing, employment opportunities, and welfare are just a few of the many curtailments that come post-incarceration. This book needs to be read carefully, but once read, a lot of the stigmas you may have once held for those reentering society or those experiencing homelessness or poverty will be broken down.

Buy it here!

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