After reading "Slavery by Another Name" by Douglas Blackmon, and now "The New Jim Crow" it is easy and heartbreaking to connect the dots between the past and present. The legacy of slavery is alive and well in the United States of America. The deliberate and systemic discrimination against people of African descent - particularly men - by the so-called criminal justice system in the U.S. is the opposite of "just."
This is one of the most challenging books I've read. I had to put it down several times in anger as I learned how one system of oppression is replaced by another, and another, and another. It is clear to me now that the war on drugs was designed to be, and succeeded at becoming, a very successful war on black people in the United States. It began with Nixon's "Southern Strategy", and grew as Reagan declared war on drugs, and reached its zenith under Clinton's get tough on crime policies.
Privatizing prisons exacerbates the challenge in undoing this unfair and unjust system in that profits are now firmly embedded. Directing federal funds to local police agencies to enforce these policies has shifted the priorities of law enforcement throughout the country. The incentive to lock people up and keep them locked up is high. The lifelong negative impact on black men, their families and communities, is severe.
From the book, "We have allowed ourselves to be willfully blind to the emergence of a new caste system -- a system of social ex-communication that has denied millions of African Americans basic human dignity. The significance cannot be overstated..."
And, "...in the absence of a fundamental shift in public consciousness, the system as a whole will stay intact."
This is not an easy book to read. It challenges to the core one's belief in the United States as a land of liberty and justice. If we are ever to become that ideal society, it is important to understand the deeply embedded, unjust "criminal justice" system that prevents us from becoming so, and work to undo it.