Her findings show that existence of the Jim Crow laws have yet to fully disappear from society like many believe they have, when it fact, the restrictions f the Jim Crow era have merely been reinvented in the form of the United States’ federal justice system. Today, the United States prison populations are overwhelmingly comprised of people of color. Since the founding of the United States, African Americans have been “denied citizenship that was deemed essential to the foundation” (Alexander 2010: 1).
The name given to this denial was Jim Crow and today even with Barack Obama, a black man, as the President of the this great nation, African Americans are still not treated as equals to whites by continually recreating Jim Crow through the federal justice system. As Michelle Alexander writes, “As a criminal, you have scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow’ (201 0:2).
In Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow, the author explains her main argument which is that the foundation of Jim Crow has not ended, but has merely been justified through the context of the United States’ criminal justice system. Alexander claims that African Americans are largely labels as “criminals” which allows the old ways of discrimination to legal continue. She believes the roblem is not the fact that many African Americans are living on the margins of society today (poverty, very little education, etc. , but a result of strategic rules and regulations the federal government has placed into effect. Alexander continues to explain to the readers her belief that mass incarceration is a “comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow” (Alexander 2010:4). The author begins to support her main argument reviewing the history of race and how it was controlled in the United States through the many ever changing patterns of racial aste systems.
SHe believe that Jim Crow has survived all this time mainly by appealing to those of the white lower class and their avidness ‘to ensure that they never find themselves trapped at the bottom of the American hierarchy”‘ (Alexander 2010:22). Next, Michelle Alexander describes the basic framework of mass incarceration emphasizing the “War on Drugs”. Alexander depicts the increasingly militarized tactics the police use and what that means for those who get swept up in the criminal justice system.
She explains that for African Americans who are arrested, they do not get the representation that ill help their case and are almost always compelled to take a plea bargain instead of going through a trial to end up with the same result, a lengthy sentence in prison from which the discrimination of the New Jim Crow has only begun. The author then focuses on how the justice system treats the mainly African American prisoners both in the system and what happens once they are released.
Discrimination has now become legal to use against those currently released from prisons in mainstream society, which keeps these ex-convicts in the margins. Michelle Alexander continues to support her claim by explaining o the readers the comparisons between Jim Crow and the United States system of mass incarceration. Alexander finds the most resemblance between todays justice system and Jim Crow through the racial segregation, legalized discrimination, political disenfranchisement, exclusion from juries, and much more.
Finally, she supports her argument by questioning how America will deal with mass incarceration in the future. She points out that the strategies used in the past to stop discrimination were not enough to stop Jim Crow completely and that “inevitably a new system of racial control will emerge-one that we cannot oresee, just as the current system of mass incarceration was not predicted by anyone thirty years ago” (Alexander 2010: 19). According to Alexander, the only way to truly get rid of racial discrimination is to discuss the underlying causes that mainstream society has not stopped.
Baker, Anderson, and Dorn (1992) give the readers six guidelines to follow when critically assessing any literary work, all of which can applied to Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. The first guideline is about how accessible is her work. Throughout the book, Alexander made her work as clear and concise as he possibly could by explaining certain points over again in a different chapter to make sure that the audience understands what she is trying to say.
Any explanation given, whether it is her own thoughts or other evidence/data is throughly talked about and written in such a way that the readers can easily digest its meanings. The next guideline is Authenticity. Alexander authenticates everything she can; almost all of the secondary sources she uses have dates (years) or she will reference certain historical events that correlate with the facts she is presenting to the audience. This is clearly shown when Michelle talks about he history of the ‘War on Drugs”, e. g.
Reagan’s policies and Clinton’s “three strikes your out” policy and how this effects the system today. The third guideline is Internal Consistency. Michelle Alexander keeps all of her information consist. All of the external research she depicts to the readers further confirms the message she is trying to get across which is that the American system of mass incarceration is purely a way to continue the discrimination in todays society. The fourth guideline is carefulness of generalization. Alexander is very specific in her book and does not use many generalization.
The generalizations that are used throughout her book are careful in the sense that they cover only the material she needed to make her point to the audience. In her first chapter, Alexander tell the history of American slavery and Reconstruction Era, etc. , which was generalized to help the readers understand where Michelle was coming from in her evidence that the Jim Crow still exists today. The fifth guideline is Expertise. Within her book, Michelle Alexander has stories from real people who have been through the process of the criminal justice system Jarvious Cotton and Drake are to name a couple.
She also relies on the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who was imprisoned, for speaking out about the discrimination and leading the nation into Civil Rights Era. By reading, King’s words and learning about the system from those who have been in it and the hardships mass incarceration causes, Michelle Alexander can giver her readers first hand accounts of the negative effects that come from todays discrimination. The last guideline from Baker, Anderson, and Dorn, is Objectivity.
Michelle Alexander is objective for much of the book through the history and parallels of today’s Jim Crow and the riginal laws; however there were areas where she became subjective mainly when she was talking about her personal journey to realizing that Jim Crow has yet to disappear from todays society. The evidence Michelle Alexander Uses in her book is mainly data, primary and secondary sources. The data Alexander uses come from many United States Supreme Court cases and historical facts, such as Brown VS Board of Education, Dred Scott VS Standford, McClesky V Kemp, etc.
These cases help the readers to understand what was happening in the United States at the time and what the thinking of the federal government was on race discrimination. Other data includes both primary and secondary sources, the primary sources being the stories of those in todays criminal justice system like Jarvious and Drake. Secondary sources would be the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King and CIA report on the “War on Drugs” along with any policy that was made by Reagan administration regarding drug trafficking.
Much of her book consists of court cases and historical facts and secondary sources to explain how although the laws are now “colorblind” or “race-neutral”, they have not always been and how today African Americans are still the main target for crimes due to many of them till in the outskirts of society. According to Baker, Anderson, and Dorn, Michelle Alexander has used her evidence empirically. All the information the readers have from Alexander can be used to determine what has worked in the past to stop discrimination and what has not helped.
Knowing this information, new tactics can be created and tried to completely erase racial discrimination for good. The court cases give the readers a sense of how much the United States government is turning a blind eye to the issue of discrimination in the criminal justice system and the willingness (or lack here of) to fix the problems at hand and keep the solutions up to date with the changing behaviors and culture of todays mainstream society. The evidence used in her book that has the most impact empirically is the court cases, policies made by presidents Reagan and Clinton about mass incarceration, information regarding Dr.
King and the Civil Rights Movement all of which allows Alexander to make her very compelling main argument that although America claims to be the land where all men are created equal, history has proven otherwise. Mills’ definition of the sociological imagination is that it “enables its possessor to nderstand the larger historical scene in terms of its meaning for the inner life and the external career of a variety of individuals. It enables him to take into account how individuals, in the welter of their daily experience, often become falsely conscious of their social positions” (1992).
Michelle Alexander’s perspective on the topic does illustrate the sociological imagination by taking the readers through the history of the United States and showing them that if this sort of discrimination continues through the system of mass incarceration, then the United States has not grown into the great nation Americans believe it is today. It is the 21 st century and it is time to make the United States into a nation of equality for all men as it is written with the founding of this country.
Since discrimination is a public issue, it needs to be addressed as one, allowing those with no voice to be heard because the personal troubles of those incarcerated are the issues of race. These troubles and issues are interconnected because discrimination is a vicious cycle that needs to disappear altogether and Michelle Alexander brings this very point to life. Alexander sees the issue that mass incarceration is causing along with the trouble it brings to all those who have xperienced it first hand.
Through the sociological imagination, Alexander sees the problem of never ending discrimination that America’s criminal justice system will cause for it is not stopped immediately. Through The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander hopes to give readers insight into todays version of Jim Crow, where all men are created equal still is not a true statement. She wants the readers to see that todays generations are the ones to make the difference if one is to occur and understand the desperation for just a dramatic change to happen.
This change will not be easy and will not happen vernight, but if all Americans realize that basic freedoms/rights are a gift given to its citizens they should be embraced fully by everyone no matter what skin color they have. She understands that if things do not change now in the criminal justice system to stop discrimination they never will or worse. The true end of discrimination and Jim Crow will be one of the greatest victories that Americans can achieve in the world today and set the example for nations around the world that all men really are created equal.
Alexander calls for a new challenge to end mass incarceration as part of a igger struggle against race and discrimination. She reminds the readers of the need to make Dr. Martin Luther King’s “dream” a reality in todays world, and the need for a radical social and political movement to challenge any policies that are still encouraging the old Jim Crow ways to continue. In order to make Dr. Kings radical vision a reality, a drastic system change is necessary to stop the continuation of racism through mass incarceration. Alexander shows how this New Jim Crow method of incarceration is crucial to maintaining the old ways of race discrimination.