Sample English Book Review on The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

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

Book Review

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness is a 2012 manuscript authored by Michelle Alexander that discusses on matters related to racial or racism issues more specific issues leaning towards African-American males as well as mass incarceration in the U.S. The book racial issues highlighted and discussed in the manuscript  blow the lid so to speak on the horribly manner the U.S criminal justice system works in addition to how the War on Drugs relates with race, economic classes, employment, housing,  level of education, public benefits as well as voting rights. This paper stands as a critical chapter by chapter book review on the six chapter manuscript.

Michelle Alexander is an alumna of law from Vanderbilt University, and is a well-known civil rights activist as well as best seller author of various “revolutionary” articles such as “Behind Bars” (Feb16, 2011). She has also co-authored manuscripts for example, “The Colour of Sunlight “which she partnered with Diane Rose  published on Apr 30, 2010, “Redefining Black Power: Reflections on the State of Black America” with Joanne Griffith  published on Feb 28, 2012,and the latest “Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling” with, Sabrina Jones  published on Apr 2, 2013. However, her most notable book is “The New Jim Craw” released on Jan 16, 2012 sold over 175,000 copies in six weeks. The reason for these high sales is founded on the fact that it (the book) is highly controversial basing on racism towards African Americans not from individuals or radical groups but from the government itself.

In Chapter 1 ‘The Rebirth of Caste’ Alexandergives a short passing history of racial social regulation in the U.S through slavery and compares it to the current and other U.S governments. “Caste” as Alexander defines it is a “select racial group of individuals who are supported by an inferior situation of law as well as tradition. …which is a representation of the old Jim Crow and the U.S present-day system of mass imprisonment” (Alexander 12). As one reads through the chapter it is evident to realize the authors request to get answers on the question of how and why how the 14th and 8th amendments do not safeguard African Americans similarly how the War on Drugs gives unconstrained power to law enforcement to seize, search and arrest blacks under the pretence of an individual showing suspicious behaviour. She concludes the chapter by challenging the Supreme Court which she advises makes it so hard for individuals in the black community to sue law enforcement officers for racial discrimination, to adopt an open and honest dialogue, where all Americans should recognize the racial dissimilarities as a positive point in diversity hence bring an end to slavery.

In Chapter 2 ‘The Lockdown’ Alexander gives focus to how the current criminal justice system has used the notion of ‘War on Drugs’ as a platform for mass incarceration. Alexander suggests in this chapter that “not much has changed since The Jim Crow law of the 19th century” (Alexander. 24). This is placed in regards to the War on Drugs launched during Nixon administration was in a way similar to the old Jim crow, and it then became fully functional during Reagan’s period, and subsequently backed by Bush and but only improved or dropped during Clinton’s era. The major similarity of this matter is the fact that the rules on the drug war are suspicious hell bent on marginalizing the African American community. By statistics more African Americans are stopped for random check-ups by the police than whites, the police label these “safety searches” to benefit citizens (Woodward, 33). The reasons for this search and seizure checks are poor and only draw a proper case of racism This in turn is the reason she says not much has changed from the Jim Craw period.

Further into the book one would find Alexander uses Chapter 3 ‘The Colour of Justice’ to discourse on how race influences the criminal justice system. The major talking point in this chapter as presented by Alexander is how racism has played a large part of bias judgments in the criminal justice system by highlighting a number of cases. For instance, In McCleskey v Kemp, represented a case where a black defendant was accused of killing a white victim and throughout the case the defendant was most disadvantaged hence making him end up as a victim of the death sentence. It should be noted that all throughout the case the Court received overwhelming evidence that put the defendant on the back foot but all this proof was never substantial to warrant the death penalty in the State of Georgia, this in turn made it relevant to allow Alexander suggest that race played a major role in the sentencing both on the victim and defendant side (Stuntz, 23). Other court cases for example the Purkett v Elm case similarly put fair justice beyond reach with the racist use of an all-white jury. This was so unfair to the point of Alexander suggesting that prosecutors could get away with ridiculous as well as self-contradictory reasoning to show that they did not essentially come as racist in placing their argument. Other than the above cases Alexander presented many more cases which the courts used racism to make final judgment.

After unfair judgment many African Americans face jail time however, the mistreatment does not end then. In chapter 4, ‘The Cruel Hand’ Alexander explains facts of how commonly African Americans are misjudged by the current government and society at large. In this chapter gives a detail account on issues faced by a black individual after being released from prison. Subsequent to an unfair trial, convicted detainees lose their privileges to public housing, several classes of welfare rights including food stamps in addition to loosing employment opportunities due to restraints on acquiring licences for a superfluity of occupations. These right infringements also include complications in obtaining private transport as well as some forms of public transport in daily runabouts. This then brings up the merry go round phenomenon which see’s released prisoners find their way back to correctional facilities. Through her explanation on the matter of infringed right Alexander allows readers to see that African Americans are not natural criminals as the new Jim Crow system suggest but victims of circumstances.

Alexander uses chapter 5 ‘The New Jim Crow’ as an correspondence to show different parallels as well as similarities between the old Jim Crow caste systems and the  current system of mass incarceration, which she suggests the creation of a contemporary or new age racial caste system. It is by factual statistics that at present that the U.S has a higher population of its African American male population imprisoned than an equivalent sample during the height of apartheid period in South Africa. In Washington DC, it is estimated that 3 out of 4 young black men are more likely to serve time in jail and this statistics is no different across America’s states. These figures are come about notwithstanding several studies which show that whites. However, Alexander in a minor authority points out the only dissimilarity between Jim Crow to mass imprisonment or detainment in the current system is that the present racial caste system poor whites individuals are also in judgment. She however suggests that “Whites being imprisoned due to the war on drugs does not suggest a change in target communities, however they are just collateral damage” (131).

In the last chapter of this book ‘The Fire This Time’ Alexander highlights on issues that would deal with both the present and future approaches on dealing with the mass imprisonment of the black community watershed currently experienced in the U.S. her discussions include various corrective strategies that would reverse the development as well as maintenance of ‘caste’ mostly by streamlining the justice system through its structural and conceptual context that are barriers in one way or another.

In conclusion, Alexander makes a clear suggestion that she does not explain that whites are bad people, but the employment of certain bias mechanisms seem to favour one race than the other. Although there are dissimilar notions about the Mass Imprisonment of the black community however the bending of the rules relates it to the old Jim Crow. Michelle Alexander’s understanding of the matter has provoked a chain of reactions among Americans who were reluctant in discussing the issues facing their minority counterparts. The segmentation of the by-chapter explanation makes the book highly detailed and very specific on its matter and is a good platform for various racial reforms.

Work Cited

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow – Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.New York, NY: The New Press, 2012. Print.

Stuntz, William J. The Collapse of American Criminal Justice. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011. Print

Woodward, C V. The Strange Career of Jim Crow. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print.