Thursday, May 17, 2018

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness Paperback – January 16, 2012 by Michelle Alexander (Author), Cornel West (Introduction) (The New Press)

I came into this book with a pretty decent grasp on Alexander's thesis—thanks in part to the deserved hype her work has received over the years—but found myself captivated as she connected the dots on so many different aspects of mass incarceration, the War on Drugs, Jim Crow, and the historical intersection between classism and racism.

Alexander notes in her preface that she wrote this book specifically for people who already care about racial justice, and if you're one of those people, I urge you to read this with the promise that you will come away from it with a much more comprehensive understanding of our current racial caste system.

It's so well-researched, so informative, and so compelling. I've seen some readers lament that Alexander spends parts of the second half of the book rehashing arguments from the first half, but this approach actually worked for me: by reiterating certain points throughout, she helped me better understand their context within the bigger picture.

Finally, I have to say that reading this book now—during this point in time—was especially impactful. I learned that there's a deep history of politicians and wealthy whites exploiting white working class vulnerabilities and racial resentments in order to preserve power and deliberately driving a wedge between poor whites and poor minorities. With so much talk right now about the economic anxieties of white working class Trump voters, I came away from this book with an even deeper conviction that pandering to poor and working class whites exclusively is absolutely not the answer. Rather, we need a real movement that addresses class struggles among all races so that we don't risk history continuing to repeat itself.

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