Critique of the New Jim Crow


In The Jim crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander conveys a very personal experience about colorblindness in the contemporary judicial system and the repressive influence of mass incarceration on the African American race. Michelle Alexander is a celebrated civil rights advocate and a brilliant legal scholar. Recently she taught in various universities, for example, Stanford Law School. She was awarded a Soros Fellowship of Justice, which supported her book, The New Jim Crow, in 2005. She writes to inform friends and colleagues about the peculiar way, the system of criminal justice works. In her book, she also intends to give courage and hope to the people held up in the American present day caste system.With this, she believes that the black Americans are facing oppression and discrimination and this issue must be addressed to the attention it deserves, despite America’s boast about color blindness. Moreover, her book is in time, because just when the American system thinks that racism is no more, she promptly reassures them that that is a mere false pretense, by stating that caste system is existing just like in prior generations. Thus, Alexander is right to ignite contentious issue about thejustice system of America and how the black Americans are treated.

The author intends to trigger a very essential conversation concerning the purpose of the system of criminal justice, in creating a continuing racial hierarchy within the United States. She asserts that the large number of people, especially the black Americans have their fate based on the people who are keen on racial justice. These people will scrutinize the purpose of the system of justice in the society. According to the author, over a half of black youths are watched by the system of criminal justice, not because of poverty influence, butrather as an indication of a fresh system of racial caste in action. She claims that systems of racial caste do not need racial hostility to flourish. They only require racial indifference. She compares Jim Crow regime to the current system of administration and claim that United States mass incarceration has materialized into a complete system of racial hatred.

Michelle Alexander has used a character called John Cotton to introduce her book, the family of Cotton pedigree dates back to an ancient time of the black slavery, where they were not allowed to vote because of their color. She admits that status quo is maintained by denying the mainstream black Americansdemocracy to vote.According to the author, the more things change, the more they remain the same (9). Additionally,the black Americans are denied basic rights like education, housing, and employment, among others. The author further laments that, it is socially impermissible to practice racism absolutely, in order to justify discrimination, rejection, and social hatred, especially, at this present day of color blindness.

On one hand, I concur with the writer’s argument that much has not changed despite United States embracing the colorblindness. To prove her point, she makes a comparison between the present day system and the days of the Jim Crow system. This comparison indicates that, by targeting and decimating the community of color, the American criminal system of justice serves as a current system of racial control, even as it embraces colorblindness. Moreover, the New Jim Crow is challenging all of us and the civil rights community to put an end to mass incarceration within the American system of justice.According to Alexander, racial caste in America is not dead, but has merely been redesigned, and what differentiates it from the predecessors is that it is voluntary. Sadly, our nation’s history has an indelible print of race affecting the status of humanity, equality, and participation of people in American society Nunnally C.S (2012).

On the other hand, I do not concur with the author about the treatment of black Americans in terms of the rate at which they are incarcerated. She seems to be too biased with her judgment, because she blames the justice system for any bad thing that happens to black Americans. Moreover, she belongs community of the color. The blame game cannot solve the problem at hand, in fact, even the system may continue with more incarceration. She needs to organize a strong movement that is, action to curb what she purports to be discrimination. The author herself asserts that people make decisions to indulge in criminal activities, the reasonthey are imprisoned. This implies that the caste system can be evaded with morals. However, this is difficult as we all make mistakes, all of us go against the law at some point. For example, driving at high speed in highway may put yourself and others at risk than someone taking marijuana in the comfort of her room.

Perhaps, the most essential comparison between Jim Crow and mass incarceration is that they have assisted to describe the meaning and implication of the American race. Indeed, a prime function of any system of racial caste is to outline the significanceof race. Slavery explained what it deemed to be a black American (a slave), and Jim Crow outlined what it deemed to be a black American (second-class citizenship). Presently, mass incarceration expresses the connotation of being black in America: blackness, especially black people, are criminals. This is the meaning of blackness.

Therefore, the system of the criminal justice has changed in nature. Its chief concerned is not punishment and mitigation of crime anymore, but rather control and administration of those evicted.Because of this, there is more black Americans are incarcerated. These mass imprisonments make the situation even worse. The black community is continuously being associated with drugs, for example cocaine. Therefore, these conspiracies surrounding black Americans are mere excuses to continue to oppress and put them back to where they belong.Discriminatory acts cover a wide range of actions and have to be analyzed according to circumstances, Kimbrough, N. (2007).

The trust that people have in their justice system is overwhelming. However, in real sense this does not imply that the crimes reported are always investigated. Additionally, the perpetrators may sometimes evade the prosecution. The justice system is entrusted with the mandate to solve disputes among people of all races, whether black or white. Furthermore, a fresh civil rights crusade is not possible with the remnants of prior control system if the realities of race are to be addressed effectively.

Finally, people condemn tricks, racial disgraces, and blatant intolerance across the civil spectrum; they are regarded as past remnants,which, no longer influence the dominant public agreement about race. Challenging these practices of bias is indeedindispensable, we must continuously remain aware, however, it will not do much to wobble the basics of the present control system. The system of new caste, unlike its forerunners, is legitimately colorblind. It must be dealt with in its own terms. The New Jim Crow is a revelation to the community of the activists and the society. It is an excellent book because it explores the rights of the oppressed. It also challenges the justice system to restructure its mandates to serve the purpose of crime mitigation rather than try to administer innocent black Americans



Kimbrough, N. (2007) Equality, or Discrimination? Africans Americans in the U.S. Military during the Vietnam War. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, ® Inc.

Nunnally, C.S., (2012) Trust in Black America: Race, Discrimination, and Politics. New York: New York University Press.

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