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

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This groundbreaking book by lawyer, advocate and scholar Michelle Alexander — in a new paperback edition with a foreword by Cornel West — reframes race relations in America by examining the insidious effect of mass incarceration of African-Americans since the War on Drugs began. In our “colorblind” society that cannot discriminate by race, says Alexander, “it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals.”

When she was a civil rights lawyer handling affirmative action and employment discrimination cases, Alexander dismissed any notion of an invisible “racial caste system.” Only after becoming director of the Racial Justice Project of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in California did she suspect that mass incarceration was “a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow,” she writes.

Media coverage of the crack cocaine “epidemic” in the 1980s and 1990s convinced many that President Ronald Reagan launched the War on Drugs in 1982 to stem the crack tide. Yet drug crime was declining, and crack did not emerge until 1985.

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