Racism is not dead. Equality does not exist. The color of a person’s skin still matters.
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Even in the 21st century, there are flaws within our legal system that has allowed Jim Crow to still exist under a new skin. The United States has used mass incarceration to continually disenfranchise millions of the African American Community. In The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander reasons that the criminal justice system is faulty and with help of the law the United States has instilled a racial caste system. She presents that from first-time offenses to the post-incarceration felony laws this system takes part in a never-ending cycle that strips rights from the black and brown community. Her book is used not only to educate the readers, but also as a call for social reform. It is not just about the legal aspects, there needs to be a fundamental shift. The public consensus is flawed about the reality that the racial undercaste have (234). In order to covey this message through her diction and use of extensive research to illustrate parallels in history, persistent consequences of the legal system and common grounds for everyone.
Alexander’s makes a point to draw connections between different periods of injustice. She provides essential historical context and pulls concise evidence. The historical factors show that the results of today’s status quo are due to past patterns. From slavery to segregation to post-Civil War to the civil rights movements it is normal for the country to use the law to aid white privilege. History is proven to be several variations of the oppression of race relations between whites and blacks in the United States. Mass incarceration is not a new idea, it is an evolved form of systematic racism. Alexander challenges the audience to look at things in a new light to exemplify the underlying effects of past executive orders.
Through a thoughtful layout, she picks apart the War on Drugs initiative under Regan’s administration. An issue that was not of the public’s main concern was intensified by creating moral panic through race-based stigmas, which inherently target the black community. Disregarding the fact that drug use and sales are essentially the same across race, the War on Drugs leads to a disproportioned number of blacks arrested, convicted and held for lengthy sentences compared to white Americans. The increasing incarceration of blacks is the most damaging manifestation of backlash against the Civil Right Movements (11). The criminal justice system is simply a gateway to a larger entity of racial stigma and marginalization. Policies about crime creates a racial order that is comparable to the past form of racial structure: Like Jim Crow (and slavery), mass incarceration operates as a tightly networked system of laws, policies, customs, and institutions that operate collectively to ensure the subordinate state of a group defined largely by race (p. 13). Everything started with slavery and has continued throughout time.
Alexander goes on to explain that there it is multiple contributors to mass incarceration. It is not only racial motives, but abuse of power taking place. It is a social, legal and political issue at hand. Any practices or policies that aligned with the War on Drugs supported mass incarceration of a particular group of Americans. Throughout the entire criminal justice systems, the ones who write the laws, the ones who approve the laws and the ones who enforce the laws are all at fault. The decision that these people in power have serious consequences for the African American community. There were changes in the procedure with respects to police stops, warrantless searches, police sweeps lacking proper suspicion and consent searches in regards to drugs. With the expansion of methods, there was an increase in funding for law enforcement and an increase in penalty for those arrested and prosecuted. The commencement of these activities made an astonishing impact on arrest, conviction and incarceration of young black men.
She goes on to explain how conviction lingers over the victims. She takes a large issue that affects everyone and begins to narrow it down. It started as a big issue created by the people in power, now it is about the people that are affected and how the laws take a toll on the individual’s life. There is a considerable amount of collateral consequences that come with a conviction of the court systems. The person is nearly permanently placed in a secondary position, offenders are ineligible for various resources that are a necessity for a basic standard of living. Alexander careful looks at the situations from all angles and concludes that the problem is not reentering society, but being forced out by society after serving time. Failure to create relationships with society. She makes the connection that this situation is similar to sharecropping. Coming out of prison they are forever in debt, serving a life sentence of trying to rebuild. Hearing crimnalblackman is like hearing the word terrorist (105). It is utterly inhumane and unfair the disadvantages that will permanently remain on a black felony.
Lastly, she reaches out to her readers for the call to actions. Leaving her book, she leaves them with pieces to begin a conversation about the problem. Society has to address and speak on what the real issues are about race. Discuss the underlying causes and the racism that still exist. Question the true success of black America is the infiltration into higher roles going to trickle down and create improvements in civil rights. Moreover, probably as the weakest part of the entire book is her use of clichs and basic phrases. For example, all of this is easier said than done, (247). It gives it a very unoriginal feel, but even though she uses clichs they are very true. through and through her story stays true.
Of the books entirety it is a great read for anyone interested in social problems and concur issues. Alexander showcases a timeless condition with endless evidence. She makes various connects to make it relatable and easier to understand. She goes in to depth while staying true to her thesis. When trying to develop a root cause to the systematic racism of mass incarceration she does not solely place fault on just one person it is a combination of things. She brings up a topic that is rather taboo and makes bold statements on paper for everyone to read. Through her diction and fearlessness to address the issue is what keeps the readers’ attention. She dropped the ball on the making a lasting impact. Her round-up was poor and lacked uniqueness. Clich?©s or not from to back was a well formulated argument, now just waiting on results.
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