Home Books The New Jim Crow: A Book Review
The New Jim Crow: A Book Review Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Arthur Lewin Ph.D   
Wednesday, 24 October 2012 18:54

First came slavery. When it ended there was a brief period in the sun called Reconstruction, followed by the long dark night of the Jim Crow Laws and legalized segregation in which we were forced into second class status, and now comes The New Jim Crow:   Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, which is also the title of Michelle Alexander’s excellent book reedited this year with a foreword written by Dr. Cornel West, Ph.D. Yes, we have a Black president. Yes, we have Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry leading the pack in Hollywood. Yes, we had Herman Cain in the race for the Republican nomination.

Yes, we have a host of first Black this and first Black that. Nonetheless, we have yet to move beyond race. In fact, under the cover of a set of supposedly race neutral laws and procedures, the police are rounding up Black men in droves, going over them with a fine tooth comb, and for the slightest infraction pulling them into the criminal justice system. Many of them, fearing long prison terms, quickly make a plea deal without benefit of counsel and are thereby branded felons (whether they are given jail time or not), and their ability to get a decent job forever disappears.

There are more African Americans under the supervision of the criminal justice system today than were slaves in 1860. Even during slavery there were free Blacks, many of whom accomplished great things, but they all ran the constant risk of being kidnapped and sold into slavery. Likewise, after the Civil War and Reconstruction free Black men and women could be arrested for vagrancy, that is not having a job, and those working as sharecroppers could be sent to prison for “not paying their debts” to the White men whose land they tilled.

Today, in New York, a city with eight million people, each year nearly 10% of the populace is stopped and frisked by the police without any probable cause. More than 80% of that 10% are young Black and Latino men, which works out to virtually every one of them. Meanwhile, the courts have turned a blind eye to these shenanigans. All the protections against unlawful search and seizure, the very things that led the Americans to rebel against their British overlords, are being ignored. Why? The excuse given is that we are in a permanent War On Drugs. However, Whites produce, distribute and consume more illegal drugs than Blacks, but they are largely given a pass. But, many are quick to point out, the Black community itself wants to stamp out the drug plague. Yes, but the methods being used are designed to not only perpetuate the drug scourge, but actually destroy the Black community itself.

We see endless negative images emerging from elements of the hip hop culture. And we can decry them if we want, but they are, in fact, the defiant affirmations of the culture foisted upon many our young. Just as the Gay community, took their stigma and turned it into “Gay Pride,” and we took the branding of race in the sixties and proclaimed “Black is Beautiful,” likewise many of our youth today, their own parents victims of the Drug War, embrace the role of gangster that society has laid out for them.

Yes, being a gangster is not like being Black or being Gay. Glorifying crime is certainly not the way to go. However, when brutal police tactics and methods are unleashed upon one community and not another, when the courts punish one race far more harshly than the other and millions of young lives are systematically shattered, we have to realize that this New Jim Crow, that is, mass incarceration in the age of supposed colorblindness, that is anything but, must be stopped. The New Jim Crow fosters and promotes the very dysfunction it purports to eradicate. This sad state of affairs must somehow be brought to an end. We are in a fight for our very existence, but few of us seem to realize it. Forbes and Newsweek among other publications endorsed the book.   

The author Michelle Alexander is a lawyer and a professor who holds a B.A. from Vanderbilt University and a J.D. from Stanford Law School.

The book is available on www.amazon.com, .ca and www.barnesandnoble.com.

The New Jim Crow is part of our top 20 for this fall: http://megadiversities.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=194&Itemid=72



About the author: Dr. Arthur Lewin was born in Harlem and his parents hail from Jamaica and Cuba. He is an avid reader since his childhood. The former mayor William P. Neary appointed Dr. Lewin to serve as a Trustee for the East Brunswick Public Library Board. Dr. Lewin lives in New York with his family. He holds a doctorate in Sociology from The Graduate School of the City University of New York. His research has included topics in Jamaican political history, charismatic leadership in African America, Africa and the Caribbean and the class structure in Black America. He is currently chronicling the origins and development of Black Studies departments on campuses across the country. He is the author of the popular book, Africa Is Not A Country: It's A Continent. Dr. Lewin is also a contributor of www.thyblackman.com. You can visit him at his official website: http://www.readlikeyourlifedependsonit.com and/or contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .