The New Jim Crow

by Michelle Alexander

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Discussion Topic

Key points and evidence used by Michelle Alexander in The New Jim Crow

Summary:

Michelle Alexander's key points in The New Jim Crow include the argument that mass incarceration in the United States functions as a racial caste system, similar to the Jim Crow laws. She provides evidence such as disproportionate rates of incarceration for African Americans, the impact of the War on Drugs, and systemic biases within the criminal justice system that perpetuate racial discrimination and social inequality.

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What evidence does Michelle Alexander use to support her claims in The New Jim Crow?

Michelle Alexander uses primarily objective evidence in The New Jim Crow. The majority of her evidence is drawn from the legal system and the judicial system. She includes academic studies, as well, which rely on analyzing primary data on demographic and sociological factors.

Alexander includes historical information on the US judicial apparatus, including state and federal aspects, to show the discriminatory practices that upheld unequal treatment of African Americans. Among the things she considers are landmark Supreme Court cases that supported discrimination. For example, Plessy v. Ferguson supported "separate but equal" ideology.

Also, changes in laws are discussed in relation to their effects. While Brown v. Board of Education overturned school segregation, states and school districts often complied slowly or made legal objections so that schools remained entirely segregated or nearly so.

In addition, Alexander looks at statistics about poverty, arrests, and incarceration, especially for Black Americans, to show the extent of change or continuity in the wake of legal/judicial changes.

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Who is Michelle Alexander in The New Jim Crow?

Michelle Alexander is a civil rights attorney and the author of The New Jim Crow. Before writing her book, Alexander was the director of the Racial Justice Project at the ACLU. Despite being an advocate for racial justice and civil rights, Alexander did not immediately make the connection between Jim Crow and the current epidemic of mass incarceration until later in her career. In the book’s preface, Alexander acknowledges that she is writing this book for people like herself ten years ago; those who care about racial injustices but do not understand nor appreciate the magnitude of America’s race issues. Alexander describes how she began working at the ACLU thinking that racial bias in the criminal justice system was not much different than the racial bias that permeates nearly all social institutions. However, after several years, Alexander began to suspect that the racial injustice of mass incarceration was much more severe than she had initially thought. Eventually she, like many other lawyers and activists, began to connect the dots and discover the unsettling parallels between mass incarceration and Jim Crow. Ultimately, Alexander argues that, like slavery and Jim Crow, mass incarceration is yet another form of racial control.

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