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New Jim Crow-It’s What We’re Reading

February 2016

A monthly offering from Drexel Library’s staff about the books we’ve read.

New Jim Crow cover from Google Books

New Jim Crow cover from Google Books

The New Jim Crow 
Alexander, Michelle

Published in 2010, this book is about an issue that is not new to many people. As someone who missed this title when it came out, I highly recommend it.

Ms. Alexander, a civil rights lawyer and legal scholar, leads readers through the details of mass incarceration in America. She argues that mass incarceration is a new form of systemic oppression that directly grew to take the place of Jim Crow laws. The common misperception is that “guilty” prisoners serve their time in jail and are released. In reality laws against ex-felons discriminate against and disenfranchise them for the rest of their lives.  Most people know that our laws are applied  discriminatorily against minority groups, especially African Americans, but they may not connect the dots to systemic racism and instead chalk it up to “bad apples” or specific municipalities. This book will convince you otherwise. Thoroughly researched, it could and has been used as a textbook for college classes. As the author brings in stories of real people damaged by our criminal justice system, it remains a riveting read even though it is also a dense and disturbing one.

Reforms that are currently in demand, such as more monitoring of police activity and reducing sentences for most drug crimes, do not obviate Ms. Alexander’s underlying argument. It is even more important to understand the system while we are thinking about these issues. Focusing only on one or two aspects of the system she presents will not be enough to save our American people or our collective soul.

The New Jim Crow is part of the Library’s collection and is
available on the second floor. Make sure to check the availability online. It may already be checked out.