OnBeing with Michelle Alexander

Who is the Guest:

MICHELLE ALEXANDER - is an associate professor of law at the Moritz College of Law and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University, and has served as the director of the Racial Justice Project at the ACLU of Northern California. Her book is The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. (Retrieved at OnBeing.org on May 3, 2016).


I read Michelle Alexander’s wonderful book back in November, and it was an eye-opener. Of course, I was extremely ignorant then, and I still have a lot to learn.

This Interview is for Everyone:

If you’re not into reading about social justice or not ready to talk about it with others, this is a particularly great entry point. If you stop and listen to it quietly and alone, I think it is a wonderful discussion that can provoke some good questions that challenge our own thoughts. Our thoughts and opinions that have often been passively developed by our environment and media exposure.  


Krista Tippett is an extremely intuitive person and interviewer. She also has a very NPR voice, which may not be the aesthetic all audiences are looking for. If you listen at 1.5 speed (I promise you will get used to it), it may alleviate some of these symptoms.

I would like to retract the above statement in a public way. Criticisms like these can be hurtful, I think I wrote this from a place of personal insecurity, and the comments were meant to somehow distance myself/prevent association with something I listen to regularly and enjoy very much. My apologies to Ms. Tippett.

How to listen:

I would recommend listening to it with someone you feel you can speak honestly with. A thought: a podcast club takes much less investment than a book club!

My first takeaway:

It comes early in the discussion and is something I am shocked I never thought of. How must it be for black and brown children to be taught history and see people who look like them being yelled at, beaten, sprayed by fire hoses, and killed by people who look like me. Historically, there are many obvious comparisons that can be drawn.  The truth of American history is that it is not much different. 

My second takeaway: 

She brings up the fact that we are all criminals in some way. We all break laws now and again, but some people are much more likely to be prosecuted for breaking laws of similar severity. Give it a listen because she talks about it more eloquently, but it sure strikes a chord.


“The question that remains unanswered is are we going to be capable of extending care, compassion, and concern across lines of race, of class, of religion, nationality - or are we going to respond to those we label others with pure punitiveness and that’s what happened ya’know with the birth of mass incarceration” (7:50).
”..I think in many ways how you respond to the crisis of mass incarceration in the United States is really a critical test for American democracy. Will this American experiment in democracy succeed or fail?” (6:50).