The New Jim Crow

new jim crow

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

by Michelle Alexander (2010)

Book Review

In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander argues that the War on Drugs and mass incarceration of African Americans functions as a racialized caste system similar to Jim Crow segregation laws. She defines caste as “as system in which a stigmatized racial group is locked into inferior position by law and custom.” In addition to the mass imprisonment itself, America’s unusually harsh treatment of ex-felons means extraordinarily high numbers of African Americans face legal discrimination for the rest of their life.

It’s both legal and socially acceptable to discriminate against ex-offenders. Federal agencies are legally required to exclude ex-felons from welfare and food stamp programs, public housing and Pell grants and student loans. Job discrimination against ex-felons is legal in nearly all states, and most states prohibit ex-felons from voting or serving on juries. Unable to find jobs or housing (relatives who take them in risk losing their homes under drug forfeiture* laws), many return to prison when they can’t meet the terms of their probation/parole (which usually includes stable housing and employment).

In addition to tracing the political origins of the War on Drugs, The New Jim Crow also provides a detailed analysis of the complex political and sociological dynamics that underlie white racism and the refusal of a post-racial “colorblind” society to acknowledge the immense damage mass incarceration wreaks on African American families and communities. She also explains the perplexing paradox that leads working class whites to vote against their own economic interests by electing Tea Party conservatives.

The War on Drugs: A Republican Scam

As Alexander elegantly demonstrates, the War on Drugs is part of a deliberate strategy by the Republican Party to play on racial animosity among working class whites to win their votes. The American elite has used this divide and conquer strategy to discourage multiracial coalitions all the way back to Bacon’s Rebellion* in 1676. According to Alexander, the original Jim Crow laws were largely a reaction to a brief multiracial coalition that formed as part of the Populist movement in the late 1800s.

Nixon was the first president to deliberately target the racist vote with the intention of transferring previously Democratic southern states to the Republican column. He pioneered the use of racially coded rhetoric such as “law and order,” “tough on crime” and the “undeserving” vs the “deserving” poor.

Here Alexander emphasizes that the affluent white liberals who championed 1960s civil rights legislation were essentially immune to the economic impact of most civil rights legislation. As professionals and academics, they weren’t competing with African Americans for the same jobs. Moreover, as residents of wealthy suburbs, their kids were excluded from mandatory busing laws.

Targeting the Racist Vote

Thanks to a highly sophisticated public relations campaign by Nixon and Republicans, by 1980 low income whites no longer saw poverty as stemming from a faulty economic system. They now blamed civil rights legislation and an overly generous welfare system. As a result, 22% of registered Democrats voted for Reagan in 1980.

Although Nixon coined the term, it would be Reagan who formerly launched the War on Drugs in 1982. The Reagan administration cut the white collar law enforcement in half to focus on street crime. This was during a period when street crime was rapidly declining and sociologists were predicting a phase-out of US prisons as they didn’t deter crime. Reagan also significantly increased DEA and FBI anti-drug enforcement while drastically decreasing funding for drug treatment. He also instituted financial incentives rewarding local policing units for high numbers of drug arrests. Alexander believes these financial rewards were directly responsible for initiating wholesale street sweeps and stop and frisk laws that have led cops to regularly jack up black motorists and inner city youths in the hope of finding illegal drugs.

Finally in 1985, he launched a major media campaign to sensationalize the crack cocaine epidemic. It worked. In 1980, only 2% of the US population viewed illegal drug use as the most important issue facing the US in 1980. By 1989 this number had reached 64%.

Clinton Escalates the War on Drugs

In 1992 Clinton and the New Democrats tried to recapture the Democratic votes they had lost to Regan and Bush by promising to enact even stricter anti-crime and anti-drug laws. Thus it was under Clinton law enforcement budgets and jail populations exploded. It was also Clinton who ended AFDC (Aid For Dependent Children) started under the New Deal – at precisely the same time inner city communities lost all their manufacturing jobs when factories shut down and moved overseas.

Clinton also initiated the federal programs to militarize local police, providing training to set up SWAT teams and surplus Pentagon tanks, body armor, weapons and helicopters. He also enacted the laws denying former drug felons access to federal programs. Sadly Obama, the first African American president, renewed and increased funding for many of these programs.

Discrimination in the Courts

In addition to discriminatory*** drug policing that focuses nearly exclusively on inner cities, African American defendants fare nearly as badly in court. Alexander cites many instances in which poor defendants receive limited or no access to legal representation. Many innocent clients, totally unaware of the future impact of a felony conviction, are intimidated into pleading guilty in return for a reduced sentence.

Ending the War on Drugs

In addition to outlining the ugly racialized history of the War on Drugs, Alexander also summarizes the conservative Supreme Court decisions that have systematically denied due process to people of color facing drug possessions. She concludes by offering a way forward – to end both the War on Drugs and the mass incarceration of people of color.

In addition to legalizing marijuana (and possibly other drugs), she calls for the total structural reform of the criminal justice system. She believes only a multiracial movement with bottom up advocacy for poor blacks and whites alike can bring this about. This is exactly what Martin Luther king was working for when he was assassinated.

In the following video, Alexander talks about her book


*Drug forfeiture or asset forfeiture laws allow federal and state authorities to confiscate any and all assets (mainly homes, cars and cash) of an individual suspected of a drug-related crime. A subsequent finding of innocence doesn’t guarantee return of the assets, which often requires a lengthy and expensive court process. Some police departments deliberately misuse this law to confiscate cash and belongings of black motorists even where no arrest is made.
**Bacon’s Rebellion was an armed rebellion of white settlers and black and white indentured servants that would lead plantation owners to push for formal slavery laws to discourage further collaboration between whites and blacks.
***Although African Americans constitute only 15% of drug users, they represent 75% of the US prison population. Statistically drug dealers are more likely to be white than black, but local law enforcement authorities make no effort to police white suburbs or university campuses for illegal drug use. In fact, 80% of drug arrests are for possession (in 80% of cases for marijuana). Only 20% of arrests are for sales

18 thoughts on “The New Jim Crow

      • Yes…..There is a reason for this, American politics. By now “America watchers” around the world, even Russia and a rare few in Iran, are cognizant of Israel’s backing of ISIL and, moreover, the ties between ISIL, Israel, the Kiev junta and America’s “Taliban,” the Republican party.

        Republican or “GOP” politicians and military figures, mostly rear echelon “chickenhawk” types, as opposed to “chickenshit,” Netanyahu’s new nickname in America, have openly supported ISIL and al-Qaeda. Their love affair with “simulated Islamic extremism” was stimulated by promises of kickbacks from profits tied to stolen Syrian and Iraqi crude oil and the promise of a share in the spoils of looted Syrian factories and stolen antiquities.

        The methodology of payment is simple. American law now allows offshore corporations, “no questions asked,” to transfer unlimited cash to any American politician. The flood of money bought the last election, a torrent of drug and human trafficking cash, with the lion’s share of “donations” channeled through Vegas gambling boss Sheldon Adelson.

        The same channels that buy elections now launder a share of ISIL spoils into the coffers of Christian evangelist “family values” politicians who pass it on to pimps who supply then with children to sexually abuse while the rest is moved offshore via Bain Capital’s Cuban based operations.

        What is believed, however, is that Netanyahu, who sees himself as a modern day Genghis Khan (Hitler’s aims were far too narrow for Netanyahu), may well have over-reached himself. Typical Pentagon chatter jokingly talks of shooting Netanyahu’s plane down.

        French sources, however, have acknowledged assassination threats against Netanyahu, whose immoderate positions have threatened both Israeli security and “Jewish interests,” the specific terminology used in the threat analysis document received today.

        http://presstv.ir/Detail/2015/01/27/394973/Warning-time-for-Netanyahu

        Like

      • A bit more than that…..There is a reason for this, American politics. By now “America watchers” around the world, even Russia and a rare few in Iran, are cognizant of Israel’s backing of ISIL and, moreover, the ties between ISIL, Israel, the Kiev junta and America’s “Taliban,” the Republican party.

        Republican or “GOP” politicians and military figures, mostly rear echelon “chickenhawk” types, as opposed to “chickenshit,” Netanyahu’s new nickname in America, have openly supported ISIL and al-Qaeda. Their love affair with “simulated Islamic extremism” was stimulated by promises of kickbacks from profits tied to stolen Syrian and Iraqi crude oil and the promise of a share in the spoils of looted Syrian factories and stolen antiquities.

        The methodology of payment is simple. American law now allows offshore corporations, “no questions asked,” to transfer unlimited cash to any American politician. The flood of money bought the last election, a torrent of drug and human trafficking cash, with the lion’s share of “donations” channeled through Vegas gambling boss Sheldon Adelson.

        The same channels that buy elections now launder a share of ISIL spoils into the coffers of Christian evangelist “family values” politicians who pass it on to pimps who supply then with children to sexually abuse while the rest is moved offshore via Bain Capital’s Cuban based operations.

        What is believed, however, is that Netanyahu, who sees himself as a modern day Genghis Khan (Hitler’s aims were far too narrow for Netanyahu), may well have over-reached himself. Typical Pentagon chatter jokingly talks of shooting Netanyahu’s plane down.

        French sources, however, have acknowledged assassination threats against Netanyahu, whose immoderate positions have threatened both Israeli security and “Jewish interests,” the specific terminology used in the threat analysis document received today.

        http://presstv.ir/Detail/2015/01/27/394973/Warning-time-for-Netanyahu

        Like

      • Back in the mid-1980’s during the Reagan presidency, Lawrence King became the fast rising star of the Republican Party, singing the national anthem at the Grand Old Party’s 1984 presidential convention in Dallas. For many years Lawrence King had been in cahoots with the priest who was second in command at Boys Town, a pedophile himself who helped funnel a steady supply of innocent victims for King’s syndicate crime ring.

        Because the child victims at Boys Town came from disadvantaged, parentless homes mostly from the foster care system ranging from age six through adolescence, they were easily exploited and manipulated by King into becoming abuse victims. Crime kingpin King not only used his young victims as “boy toys” for gay politicians at after party Republican fundraising events during the Reagan and Bush years of the 1980’s, they were also used as drug mules moving shipments of cocaine out of California that Reagan and Bush senior deployed the CIA during the Iran Contra years running guns and money trade for cocaine from Latin America that flooded urban ghettos in the US creating the crack cocaine epidemic. King’s Franklin Credit Union was laundering drug money from the Iran Contra scandal. Another major player in Washington was lobbyist Craig Spence who longtime investigator-author Nick Bryant believes was a CIA asset that notoriously ran midnight tours with the boys to the Bush White House. King hired photographer Rusty Nelson to take photos of the politicians in compromising positions as blackmail insurance. Young victims were not only sodomized by the powerful pedophiles in Congress but often King would drug, sadistically burn and torture them for sexual sadism as well as terrorizing them for control purposes.

        When courageous individuals such as Carol Stitt, director of the state foster care review board, Nebraska state legislator John DeCamp and state senator Loran Schmitt attempted to bring justice for the long suffering young victims in Nebraska, the powers-that-be engaged in a diabolical suppression of evidence, harassment and persecution of witnesses, evidence tampering and character defamation. The publisher of the local newspaper, the Omaha Herald Record, also served as chairman of King’s credit union advisory board. The paper engaged in a nonstop smear campaign to discredit and defame witnesses.

        The five brave young witnesses were repeatedly threatened, beaten up, drugged and manipulated into recanting testimony, and eventually charged with perjury, arrested and imprisoned. Several ended up doing serious time in prison after being victimized for years. The 15-year old girl at the time Alisha Owen was handed a fifteen year sentence. Illustrating the sinister depravity of the US justice system, the mastermind behind the worst pedophile trafficking crime ring in American history ended up doing only ten years for unrelated crimes while an innocent, honest and very brave victim first abused sexually by evil adults and then legally by an evil court system has her spending more time in prison than the criminal mastermind. Though she never perjured herself and was telling the truth all along, she was used as a graphic example of what happens to victims willing to come forth and seek justice through the court for crimes perpetrated against them. John DeCamp believes at least fifteen people were murdered in order to silence them from bringing the case forward while hundreds of young lives were ruined during the years of horror.

        Two days prior to George HW Bush’s election as the 41st President of the United States in 1988, Lawrence King’s Omaha credit union was raided, $38 million was missing and King was arrested, charged and eventually convicted for embezzlement, conspiracy and fraudulent accounting records for which he served ten years in prison. But he was never charged for sex abuse, sodomy, human trafficking, torture, murder, drug trafficking, pimping, perjury, extortion or blackmail for obvious reasons.

        http://www.veteranstoday.com/2015/02/07/power-pedophilia-and-the-us-government

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  1. Hopefully, Alexander’s book will bring before more people the harsh reality of “disproportionate incarceration” of people of color (Latinos are in this mix), as well as poor whites. This has been along and ongoing problem in this country – that may be beginning to crack. I actually heard a news report that the head of the FBI was addressing the unjust treatment of black people. See, things will change as the new growing minority, “white wealthy male Americans” continue to decline in power and influence.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Black Girls Matter | The Most Revolutionary Act

    • Thanks for reblogging my post and your long and thoughtful comments about the hot money funding ISIS, US politicians and drug and human trafficking. None of this surprises me. I look forward to following your blog.

      Like

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