The New Jim Crow written by Michelle Alexander is a provocative nonfiction novel focusing on criminal justice, race relations and discrimination. Although the book was released in 2010 the information presented is thought-provoking for any reader because it provides an analysis of The War on Drugs and how the act follows a discriminatory bias-creating a new racial caste system in the United States. I read this book my junior year of high school in my two AP classes. These advanced placement classes allowed me to analyze the novel in a rhetoric and historical aspect. Outside of the book peaking my personal interest in social issues, the classes I took gave me an understanding that I rave about at any chance I get to friends, family, and colleagues.
Michelle Alexander is a visiting professor, civil rights activist, and an author. Alexander wrote the book in order to inform society of the cyclical oppression of the black man. In the novel, her main argument is that mass incarceration is ultimately The New Jim Crow. The original Jim Crow was created to segregate people of color and whites. This system put people of color at a drawback because the idea of “separate but equal” never reigned true. Black people were disadvantaged through lack of public school funding, strict voting laws, and obviously blatant racism. Alexander believes that this system is reinvented in our present day lives, through mass incarceration. The novel follows a historic timeline that serves as the main point of her argument. This timeline along with a variety of statistical analysis is used to further the concepts presented. Alexander prevents statistics such as “Over 2.3 million men in America are in prison — about half for drug crimes. Seventy percent of all men imprisoned are black or Hispanic”. Said statistics made me reflect on concepts I had always focused on growing up. The novel personally affirmed concepts that I thought were based on pure observation. Growing up in impoverished communities allowed me to see first hand the disadvantages placed upon people of color. Alexander’s argument is comforting because she is shedding light on a topic that is often ignored. The novel confirms that you as a person of color are not alone. Your observations are shared. The oppression you face is understood by your minority counterparts.
The New Jim Crow is a standout novel. I personally give it a 10/10 rating because it is well written, stimulating and thought-provoking. Alexander acknowledged early on in the novel that she is not bashing the system or working off of assumptions. She is using known statistics to present an argument. I believe this argument is one that will interest anyone because it is a learning experience. You do not have to agree with what she has presented to you, but respect is given by readers because Alexander is simply an amazing writer. For those interested in reading the novel, it is available in the Clark Atlanta University bookstore or for easy access as well as anywhere online.
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