There are books that do not only demonstrate significant problems but also change the audience’s views. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander shows how a book may draw attention to the problem of the modern world and even ignite a global social movement. The main idea of the book and its key concepts are presented further in this essay.
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First published in 2010, the book deals with the problem of mass incarceration of African Americans and discrimination and bias that people of color have to face. Being a civil rights lawyer, Alexander justly notes the disproportionate number of imprisoned black Americans (235). The title of the book refers readers to the 19th century Jim Crow laws that enforced racial segregation. Therefore, the main idea of the author is that the disproportionate incarceration is evidence of racism, bias, and social injustice, requiring the decisive actions of government and society.
Racial discrimination is not the only concept highlighted by Alexander. She associates African Americans’ mass incarceration with disenfranchisement and disrespect of human rights (322). For example, due to criminal records, ex-convicts cannot vote and have difficulties with finding a job, which makes the black population unfairly deprived of legal rights. Moreover, Alexander emphasizes that not only people of color, but socially and economically disadvantaged individuals are more subject to incarceration than the white population (294). In addition to racial inequality, the oppression of marginalized people is an important issue of the modern world. Therefore, the current crime-related legislation in America is presented as redesigned Jim Crow laws.
In conclusion, Alexander’s The New Jim Crow does not only present the problem of disproportionate incarceration of African Americans but also calls for the actions aimed at establishing equality and justice. Her findings ignited global protests and attracted the attention of policy-makers. Changing the criminal legislation and eliminating bias in criminal law would significantly improve the current situation of discrimination and inequality, and Alexander’s book effectively addressed these problems.
Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. 10th ed., The New Press, 2020.