The New Jim Crow

What it is about:

This book outlines how the war on drugs, stereotypes, and other nefarious tools have been wielded by politicians and the class elite in American society. It is a convincing argument that seems to be supported as absolute fact with each politician who speaks candidly about the timeframe when the system was developed. 

What I liked:

The book is filled with facts and statistics that support the claims made. It is an eye-opening, sobering book that connects specific policies, actions, and political motives with systemic problems that include the for-profit incarceration industry, politics, American society and more. It also clearly reveals the human cost to a group who have been diminished and marginalized.

The Caveat:

It is hard to take: The book and arguments are concise, clear, and reveal direct cause-effect relationships. The book highlights how American society is complicit in the treachery that has been undertaken in degrading and subjugating black men and women - again. It was frustrating and aggravating to see a truth I had not understood and how I was unwittingly a part of it.

What is Inspiring:

I remember the book and it’s author avoiding coming off as cynical and somehow remaining hopeful. I came away from the book with a list of takeaways, a few thoughts on moving forward, and pages of quotes.

What I wrote at the time:

"When I read this I wrote that it is an absolute must read for anyone interested in racial justice in America."


“But if the movement that emerges to end mass incarceration does not meaningfully address the racial division and resentments that gave rise to mass incarceration, and if it fails to cultivate an ethic of genuine care, compassion, and concern for every human being – of every class, race, and nationality – within our nation’s borders, including poor whites, who are often pitted against poor people of color, the collapse of mass incarceration will not mean the death of racial caste in America” (p258).
“While there is widespread recognition that the War on Drugs is racist and that politicians have refused to invest in jobs or schools in their communities, parents of offenders and ex-offenders still feel intense shame – shame that their children have turned to crime despite the lack of obvious alternatives” (p165).
“ Poor people of color, like other Americans – indeed like nearly everyone around the world – want safe streets, peaceful communities, healthy families, good jobs, and meaningful opportunities to contribute to society. The notion that ghetto families do not, in fact, want those things, and instead are perfectly content to live in crime-ridden communities, feeling no shame or regret about the fate of their young men is, quite simply, racist” (p170).
“Racial violence has been rationalized, legitimate, and channeled through our criminal justice system; it is expressed as police brutality, solitary confinement, and the discriminatory and arbitrary imposition of the death penalty” (p202).
“In short, the inclusion of some whites in the system of control is essential to preserving the image of a colorblind criminal justice system and maintaining our self-image as fair and unbiased people” (p204).
“We must come to see, too, how our economic insecurities and racial resentments have been exploited for political gain, and how this manipulation has caused suffering for people of all colors. Finally, we must admit, out loud, that it was because of race that we didn’t care much what happened to “those People” and imagined the worst possible things about them” (p238).
“One study found that some whites are so loath to talk about race and so fearful of violating racial etiquette that they indicate a preference for avoiding all contact with black people” (p238).
“to aspire to colorblindness is to aspire to a state of being in which you are not capable of seeing racial difference – a practical impossibility for most of us” (p242).
“It may always be necessary for us, as a society, to pay careful attention to the impact of our laws, policies, and practices on racial and ethnic groups and consciously strive to ensure that biases, stereotypes, and structural arrangements do not cause unnecessary harm or suffering to any individual or any group for reasons related to race (especially until there is equal political and judiciary representation among races… and until we are sure the prevailing bias of today has dissipated)” (p244).