Alex's Reviews > The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
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May 24, 12

Read from May 21 to 23, 2012

This is a well-researched case for ending the War on Drugs and the unfairness of the criminal justice system. Too bad the author's analogy is nonsense.

The book opens with a brief anecdote about a black man named Jarvious Cotton, who cannot vote because "he has been labeled a felon" (p. 1). Ms. Alexander compares Cotton to his black ancestors, who could not vote due to slavery, Jim Crow, and intimidation from the KKK - in other words, through no fault of their own. What the author doesn't say is that Cotton was not simply "labeled a felon." He chose to become a felon when he escaped from prison while awaiting trial for the murder of a 17-year-old boy in 1982 ( Cotton's ancestors never chose to give up their rights, so Alexander's premise diminishes what they went through.

In a later chapter, Alexander describes a black man named Clinton Drake from Alabama, who is also barred from voting. Drake was caught with marijuana in 1988, was caught with it again five years later, and now has the audacity to complain about the consequences. This person lost many of his rights because he can't seem to stop breaking the law, and we're supposed to feel sorry for him? Worse yet, we're expected to compare his situation to that of someone who lived under Jim Crow? Imagine what Rosa Parks would have said to Clinton Drake.

Alexander also cites a few cases of black men who were convicted of drug crimes after being subjected to random stops and searches. But in most of these examples, the individuals possessed drugs anyway. I understand and agree with the author's point that random stops and searches are wrong, but she never points out the obvious: the individuals who were searched shouldn't have had drugs in the first place!

I read this book hoping that at some point Alexander would hold these criminals accountable for their choices. I was sorely disappointed (but honestly, not at all surprised). The author does mention the factor of personal choice, but briefly and only in the context of how we as a society should treat "those who are labeled as felons." At no point does she urge the black community to change their behavior; it's all the government's fault. Like I said: nonsense.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Limeminearia (new)

Limeminearia I think you should read Let's Get Free by Paul Butler and see if it's better or if it's more of the same of an idea you disagree with. I'd be curious to know if it's better.

Patti I'm feeling the same thing as I read this book...where is the personal responsibility? Also, I don't like comparing a felon who can't vote with people who couldn't vote because white racists were actively preventing them from voting. Big, big difference.

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