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Everyone Should Read “The New Jim Crow”

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Rice chapter.

“Now and then a book comes along that might in time touch the public and educate social commentators, policymakers, and politicians about a glaring wrong that we have been living with that we also somehow don’t know how to face. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander is such a work.”The New York Review of Books

“A profoundly necessary book.”Miami Herald

Here are just a few of the many thought-provoking and altogether urgent questions raised by Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness:

  • The current popular narrative surrounding the opioid epidemic depicts it as predominantly affecting whites, and President Trump has declared the opioid crisis to be a “public health emergency.” In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander makes mention of persuading mainstream voters that “drug abuse is a public health problem, not a crime” (pg. 18). Has this been successfully accomplished in the case of opioid addiction? Could the political response to the ongoing ‘opioid crisis’ be said to illustrate the disparities in how our society perceives white versus black drug usage?
  • Is it still the case that poor whites have a “direct, personal stake in the existence of a race-based [caste system]” (pg. 25)? If so, in what ways?
  • Alexander states “[t]he absence of significant constraints on the exercise of police discretion is a key feature of the drug war’s design” (pg. 61). Could this sentiment be extended to police action more broadly, even when legal constraints are technically in place? Charges brought against police officers for excessive force, or even murder, seem to typically result in the officers being found not guilty. Do we have a more general problem of courts effectively allowing the police to act with impunity? In other words, is the issue a lack of laws to constrain police discretion, or the fact that laws theoretically constraining the police are rarely enforced? Could both be true?
  • Politically, how feasible would it be to outlaw housing discrimination against people branded felons? On its face, such a move seems certain to elicit considerable opposition, especially since the term “felony” encompasses such a wide variety of criminal activity. However, if felons and “suspected criminals” continue to be denied public housing, would the institution of some national supportive housing scheme for individuals released from prison simply be a short-term solution, providing temporary alleviation but ultimately failing to address the greater issue?

Image Source: newjimcrow.com

Ellie is a Political Science and Policy Studies double major at Rice University, with a minor in Politics, Law and Social Thought. She spent the spring of 2017 studying/interning in London, and hopes to return to England for grad school. Academically, Ellie's passion lies in evaluating policies that further the causes of gender equality, LGBT rights, and access to satisfactory healthcare, specifically as it pertains to women's health and mental health. She also loves feminist memoirs, eighteenth-century history, old bookstores, and new places. She's continuously inspired by the many strong females in her life, and is an unequivocal proponent of women supporting women.