Sometimes a book comes along and, after it is absorbed into the culture, we cannot see ourselves again in quite the same way. Ten years ago, Michelle Alexander, a lawyer and civil-rights advocate, published “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” This was less than two years into Barack Obama’s first term as President, a moment when you heard a lot of euphoric talk about post-racialism and “how far we’ve come.” “The New Jim Crow” was hardly an immediate best-seller, but after a couple of years it took off and seemed to be at the center of discussion about criminal-justice reform and racism in America. The book considers not only the enormity and cruelty of the American prison system but also, as Alexander writes, the way the war on drugs and the justice system have been used as a “system of control” that shatters the lives of millions of Americans—particularly young black and Hispanic men.
As part of an hour-long examination of mass incarceration for The New Yorker Radio Hour, co-hosted this week by Kai Wright, of WNYC, I caught up with Michelle Alexander, who is now teaching at Union Theological Seminary, in New York. Read more
What this is about
Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive