The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander (The New Press 2010, 209 pages)

There is no denying that millions of people across America are arrested each year for drug-related offenses and that the majority of these citizens are black men. Many become branded as felons and make up what legal scholar and professor Michelle Alexander refers to as America’s undercaste in her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Throughout American history, Alexander writes, an unjust caste system has existed segregating the rich from the poor and people of color from whites. She investigates this longstanding system from its beginnings in 18th-century America with the exploitation of race-based slavery to its modern-day form in the American prison system with its population of predominantly black men.  Once released from prison, these men are cast out of society and denied basic rights as citizens. She argues that with each social movement toward greater equality for blacks, the U.S. criminal justice system is redesigned, making Jim Crow laws harder to recognize and even harder to change. Alexander urges us not to be fooled by the colorblind appearance of America in light of Barack Obama’s election to the presidency. While this event is extremely important in this country’s history, we must remain vigilant in our efforts for social change, for both racial equality and for drug abuse. A riveting essay by Dr. Cornel West opens the book.  –Precious Williams, Assistant Editor of Flycatcher.

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