Everyone Needs to Read 'The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness'

The New Jim Crow is single-handedly the best, and most important, book I have ever read.

This book by Michelle Alexander, a civil rights attorney, activist, and now best-selling author, discusses institutionalized racism, and specifically the major social problem of mass incarceration. Institutionalized racism involves “the policies, practices, and procedures that have a disproportionately negative effect on racial minorities’ access to and quality of goods, services and opportunities.” It is something that can be hard to see on the surface, but its impact is profound and unwavering. It took me reading this book to truly get a grasp on the magnitude of the issue.

This book brings attention to these issues in a way that is thought provoking and urgent. I have always had a passion for social justice, and this book took my love a step further. It inspired me to attend law school with the hopes of eventually working for a nonprofit that works to change drug policy. It’s a moving book. It’s an important book because it lays out the history of today’s inequalities.

The New Jim Crow is a must-read because it no longer allows ignorance to be an excuse for not knowing the social problems at hand. Mass incarceration is prevalent, unwavering, unfair, and leads to horrible consequences for the population when they are released from prison. Their “felon” label leaves them barred from public housing, food stamps, jobs, and the right to vote, just to name a few. These are basic human rights that are stripped away because of a criminal justice system that criminalizes the color of one’s skin.

Read this book to get the facts. Read this book to understand what is happening in the country right now and how this has happened. The history is just as important as the now. Today’s issues can only be explained by the events of the past: slavery, the Jim Crow Era, the War on Drugs. These things have created a criminal justice system that is toxic and unjust, and change needs to happen. Even if criminal justice is not your passion, it is important to read this because it involves the livelihood of so many people. Ignorance can no longer be an excuse for not knowing about mass incarceration and “the new Jim Crow.”