Friday, July 10, 2015

The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander, Review


Without a doubt this is the most revolutionary text I have read thus far this year. To evoke a biblical allusion the scales have fallen from my eyes and I see the "war on drugs" for what it really is: a means of racial social control as repressive as Apartheid in South Africa.

The author, a former supreme court justice aid, meticulously describes and delineates the "War on Drugs" as being a system designed to 1) repress inner city lower income communities and effectively turn them into red zones, 2) place "criminals" under constant supervision and monitoring of the state, 3) prescribe harsh and unhelpful sentences for drug use and possession beyond the range of 'justice,' 4) criminalize poverty, 5) reward state and local drug enforcement agencies in the form of cash (federal subsidies for picking up and prosecuting drug criminals), and 6) effectively remove on third of the population from being able to vote in elections.

The more I read the more i felt like a fool for once upon a time falling for all the war on drugs rhetoric. I am ashamed to admit just how taken in I was by the stereotype of the black man as drug criminal and i see now that in many ways our society, under the guidance of corporations and neoliberal policies reinforced this.

This book has forced a brutal self reckoning in my personal life and made me choose a new path of existence rather than participate in a culture of mass enslavement. I can no longer in good conscience pretend that any of this, this system built on a culture of caging human beings, is capable of accomplishing any good.

In the pages of this book I found the diagnosis of the ills of my own community: a rural area devastated by the neoliberal policies that sent its factories and industries overseas and replaced them with prisons as the only means of gainful employment. Predominantly white communities that see no other means of self sufficiency than locking up people of color, and in the process turn a blind eye to the damage caused to the lives of the incarcerated, to the society as a whole, and to the nation. In a 50 mile radius from where i live there are 3 state prisons, 2 Federal prisons, and 4 Juvenile correctional facilities. Solzenhietzen's phrase, 'the prison industry, comes to mind.

Each chapter introduced more to be angry about. Not least of which is the way the drug war makes local communities wealthier by allowing them to keep whatever monies they seize in raids. So instead of wiping out the drug trade in their towns they raid them periodically to increase coffers. No wonder tv is so full of cop shows: lets villainize the black inner city person and heroize the police who lock them up.

I hope for meaningful change. And will find ways to be active in the future. But I will vote for any candidate that can help bring about meaningful change.

Thank you, Ms. Alexander, for waking me up.

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