The short answer is no. And Michelle Alexander, In The New Jim Crow, answers this in well documented detail. I am absolutely captivated. It’s a huge eye opener. Mind you, I haven’t lived in a bubble. I know that racial injustice is prevalent, yet… Every ‘white’ person needs to read this book. Regardless of education, economic status, or what you think you know. You just don’t know what you don’t know. I would imagine most, if not all African Americans already know much of what this book espouses with regard to racial injustice, instinctively and intimately via their life experience and/or that of loved ones or friends. The time line of Supreme Court rulings pertaining to racial injustice are especially eye opening. Current events make so much sense in light of Ms. Alexander’s book. It is clear well before chapter 4 that #BlackLivesMatter matters! We should all join them in this movement by supporting them in whatever way we can, if only by being able to say ‘black lives matter’, without any qualification.
I’m going to share some of my favourite passages and thoughts from the book. But read it. It is phenomenal. I received this book along with a note from my son that said, “I haven’t read this yet, I will soon. < (He’s in law school at the moment with so much to read already.) I heard it is challenging. I hope it challenges you like you’ve challenged me, to make me as good as I am today. I love you.” So Bubba, I love you too. And, it has challenged me deeply. It’s also a good reminder to never judge injustice by a single story.
From The New Jim Crow:
“We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”
“I came to see that mass incarceration in the United States had, in fact, emerged as a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow.”
(BTW, if you happen to be unfamiliar with Jim Crow, google it.)
(Also, the ‘War on Drugs’ is not all that. As she well documents.)
“In fact, the War on Drugs began at a time when illegal drug use was on the decline.”
Consequently, “In less than 30 years, the U.S. penal population exploded from 300,000 to more than 2,000,000…” (We now have the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Drug convictions account for most of that increase.)
“The U.S. imprisons a larger percentage of its black population… (even though) Studies show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates.”
“It may be surprising to some that drug crime was declining, not rising, when a drug war was declared.”
(She defines ‘mass incarceration’ as not only referring to) “the criminal justice system but also the the larger web of laws, rules, policies, and customs that control those labeled criminals both in and out of prison.”… “They are members of America’s new undercaste.”
“racial caste systems do not require racial hostility or overt bigotry to thrive. They need only racial indifference.”
(That there is a disproportionate number of young black men in the criminal justice system), “is not–as many argue–just a symptom of poverty or poor choices, but rather evidence of a new racial caste system at work.” (She covers this in great detail, chapter by chapter.)
Chapter 1 “briefly reviews the history of racialized social control in the United States,”
Chapter 2 describes the structure of mass incarceration with a focus on the effects of the War on Drugs. <Started by Reagan, btw.
Chapter 3 weaves through many Supreme Court decisions that institutionalized a subliminal, coupled with overt racism.
Chapter 4 considers how “release from prison does not represent the beginning of freedom but instead a cruel new phase of stigmatization and control.”
“The many parallels between mass incarceration and Jim Crow are explored in chapter 5.” (The most obvious being legalized discrimination. Yes, it’s real. Again, well documented.)
I’m not at chapter 6 yet. She does say that “nothing short of a major social movement can successfully dismantle the new caste system.” … “It is not nearly enough to persuade mainstream voters that we have relied too heavily on incarceration or that drug abuse is a public health problem, not a crime.” < We need that major social movement.
Like I said, this is an eye opener. It’s one of those things that as the case is laid out before you, it becomes glaringly obvious.
Judgement call here: If you read this book and it doesn’t break your heart wide open, your heart is too hard.
I cannot recommend this book strenuously enough. Thanks again Bubba!
Now, I need to run to finish reading. 🙂