The New Jim Crow

The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Book - 2012 | Revised edition / with a new foreword by Cornel West.
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Apr 04, 2021

Author constantly states that Jim Crow is very similar to incarceration resulting from the “War on Drugs”. However, they are not even closely the same.

Jim Crow applied to mostly all blacks, and some non-blacks. For the most part, individual blacks had ZERO control of the situation regarding segregation in education, housing, health care, jobs, interracial marriage, or voting. Jim Crow was unavoidable in those states.

War on Drug incarcerations applied equally to all races (although applied disparately) and individuals had TOTAL control to not break drug laws. Resulting felons, white or black, can't vote (in some states), obtain federal welfare benefits, or get certain jobs. Incarceration is totally avoidable by not selling illegal drugs.

The author blames all disparate statistics on race-ism. To her statistics are causality. Not once is individual personal responsibility mentioned as a cause of felony conviction.

For balance, I suggest reading Dr. Thomas Sowell’s book Black Rednecks and White Liberals.

Feb 15, 2021

Recommended by Karen

Oct 31, 2020

A horrifying description of the system of mass incarceration that has been created during our lifetimes. It is powerfully written, and I can understand why it is so heavily cited by more recent books on race. Still, it was a bit repetitive, covering the same ground over and over, and also left virtually no room for hope that we might solve this problem. The last chapter is quite different and offers an inciteful look at the challenges we face in the area of civil rights. If you can't make it through the first few chapters, the last one is worth skipping to.

Aug 22, 2020

312 pages

Aug 05, 2020

I would love to see this masterpiece adopted as our town book of the year to read. It would be a jumping off point for much needed discussion and understanding. It's not an easy read. It is dense with information and it is also heartbreaking but it is vitally important to see the thread woven from slavery to the present caste system we perpetuate in law.

JCLBetM Jul 06, 2020

Worth reading. While it's a hefty book crammed with too many details for me to adequately remember - I was able to hear and better understand the key thread of how arrests and prison sentences have gravely impacted the Black community. Very eye opening and I now have a healthy dose of skepticism about our justice system, which I hope will help me be more aware and ask better questions moving forward rather than blindly presuming everyone is being treated justly.

Jul 06, 2020

I got a little concerned when the first 10% of the book kept telling me what it was going to tell me. I was going "Just get on with it already." However, once the author got going, I found this book to be a really eye-opening account of just how the criminal justice system is set up to ensure people of color fail. I was extremely impressed with the the amount and quality of research done. I found it unbelievable how the Supreme Court, over the years, has consistently ruled that the judicial system cannot be challenged, especially by making both the 5th and 14th amendments totally unavailable to Black Americans. The number of arrests and length of jail terms for Black Americans vs. white Americans for drug use, especially when white Americans have been shown to use drugs just as often, was astonishing. Through reading this book, the author made a very convincing case that the War on Crime is really a war on Black Americans. I found it surprising that the Obama administration didn't do more to equalize things. When I consider all of the money spent to keep non-violent drug users off the streets, unemployed, under-housed, and unable to vote when there is such an explosion of violent crimes being committed, I think we all need to rise up and say that things need to change.
Like the author, I am not sure how to make things better when the entire justice system is so stacked against them. I just know we need to start somewhere.

VaughanPLDavidB Jul 05, 2020

This was, to me, a shocking revelation of the intention behind the "war on drugs" and mass incarceration. I naively thought it was an ill-conceived attempt to combat a problem that didn't actually exist, i.e. drug use, and the resulting harsh sentences for what on the surface, are seemingly minor offences. What the war on drugs actually is is a sophisticated means of controlling African-American young men in the wake of the explicitly racist Jim Crow system being dismantled. It was far more effective because it stripped all the explicitly racist elements out of Jim Crow, yet was able to maintain African Americans in a permanent second class status by labeling them felons and thus having an excuse for stripping them of all their rights as citizens, right down to something as fundamental as voting.

Jun 05, 2020

She keeps saying that if drug use is the same across the races, why do we have a disproportionate amount of people of color serving time for nonviolent drug charges? First of all, the laws in this country are for drug possession, not for drug use. Who's gonna be caught with more? The guys selling it, not the guys using it. So, let's look into the drug trade. I highly recommend watching the show Drugs, INC, and finding at least one documentary on a drug cartel. Most of the drugs in America are coming in from Mexico or Colombia. The cartels bring them across the border, and the gangs sell them on the streets. Females, Asians, and whites make up less than 5-15% of all gangs/cartels. So, the vast majority of the guys selling drugs are people of color. That's not racist, that's fact. When you look into it, you'll realize the nightmare violence associated with the drug trade. The cops target these poor neighborhoods of color because of the violence. People who are growing up there and trying to be good do NOT need to be told white people are subconsciously out to get them! They need all the help they can get!

Oct 31, 2019

I thought this novel definitely gave me a new point of view on my white privilege. I would never say I was oblivious to my white privilege before but after reading this novel I realized how big of a role it plays in my everyday life. I was also never aware of the gigantic war on drugs going on in this US which opened my eyes a lot. I think it is a very unfortunate time period we are living in where you get assumptions made about you from the color of your skin and the novel definitely helped my notice some of my own racial bias that I had before. This novel gives you a new perspective and is worth your time.

Jun 14, 2019

A thought-provoking book. Well researched. I no longer claim to be colour blind.

Nov 05, 2018

This book amazingly explains the inequality in today's justice system. Michelle Alexander is a talented writer that uses realistic reasonings to support her opinions. The New Jim Crow is a highly impactful book that will spark a discussion and will question yourself what kind of justice system we are living in. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is willing to learn about the persistently avoided problems we face.

Nov 04, 2018

This book is very thorough on discussing the creation and explanation caste system resulting from the war on drugs. The author does seem to dwell on certain topics and opposing views were not mentioned in the book. It is written persuasively more than how it claims to be about starting a discussion. I enjoyed it over all as the author has a strong voice and has adept writing skills.

Sep 22, 2018

The New Jim Crow massively oversimplifies issues in the American criminal justice system. It is perplexing how this book has received the hype that it has. It essentially cries racism and blames every issue within the system on that single claim. It is hard to take this work as an objective analysis of the criminal justice system when so many important aspects are ignored to advance the author's arguments. Alexander seldom acknowledges the all too real damage that narcotics inflict upon communities and our society as a whole. She also omits examples of "real" failed drug wars that have taken place as close as central America. If the topics covered in this book interest you I really recommend reading other books because this one simply does not paint a very accurate nor complete picture of the subject matter. Below are a couple of recommendations.

A War that Cant Be Won: Binational Perspectives on the War on Drugs
by Payan, Tony; Staudt, Kathleen; Kruszewski, Z. Anthony

Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform
by Pfaff, John

strangegazelle Aug 24, 2018

Exceptionally well-researched look at how mass incarceration in the U.S. has deliberately created a new racial under-caste. It's truthful, timely and in many ways prescriptive - it's one of those books that everyone should read.

Aug 22, 2018

The author says it is meant to be a discussion starter. She is head of the Racial Justice department of northern California's ACLU. Her thesis is that there Jim Crow laws have been replaced with a racial caste system. Her husband a federal prosecutor, sees it differently. This book really isn't meant to be read by yourself. You need other opinions as you read it. If you are in a book club or even a progressive church Sunday School class, this would be a great discussion starter. My favorite Sunday School class was in a Salem Oregon Methodist church, 1991, where we discussed what how did our actions now reflect our Christianity. Each class had a different focus, like responding to terrorism or working with Habitat for Humanity. I could see this book being used in that class or in an AP high school class.

vm510 Jun 28, 2018

The New Jim Crow is an instant classic of the genre. Since publication, I have seen this book and its arguments cited in so much media I've consumed (books, documentaries, podcasts). I am glad I finally got to experience the source text myself. For its historical analysis, for the way it traces slavery to the convict lease system to Jim Crow to mass incarceration, for how clearly it's explained how assigning criminality functions + creates a new social undercaste, this book is crucial.

Jun 08, 2018

"Hundreds of years ago, our nation put those considered less than human in shackles; less than one hundred years ago, we relegated them to the other side of town; today we put them in cages. Once released, they find that a heavy and cruel hand has been laid upon them."

"As a society, our decision to heap shame and contempt upon those who struggle and fail in a system designed to keep them locked up and locked out says far more about ourselves than it does about them."

"The widespread and mistaken belief that racial animus is necessary for the creation and maintenance of racialized systems of social control is the most important reason that we, as a nation, have remained in deep denial [about mass incarceration]."

"It is fair to say that we have witnessed an evolution in the United States from a racial caste system based entirely on exploitation (slavery), to one based largely on subordination (Jim Crow), to one defined by marginalization (mass incarceration)."

"Drug crime in this country us understood to be black and brown, and it is because drug crime is racially defined in the public consciousness that the electorate has not cared much what happens to drug criminals--at least not the way they would have cared if the criminals were understood to be white."

Alexander argues that reductions in legal avenues provided to black prisoners; Supreme Court antagonism toward racial bias in cases; and more people of color getting taken up by law enforcement forces despite the fact that more white people commit drug crimes, leads to a situation in which mass incarceration does not serve to reduce crime but to induce racialized social control.

If you retain an ounce of social justice in your psyche, you will probably want to repeatedly throw this book across the room, but not because it is poorly written. It is because it is so well researched and argued that it boggles the mind that this reader could have been so blind as not to see it. I wonder how well book could be countered.

May 10, 2018

The book is way to repetitive, but then glosses over some topics. could have been much shorter. Even so very interesting. New book with new information would be good.

Mar 22, 2018

This is a very important book to read, and I'd recommend it for that reason. I wanted it to say even more though. The book is repetitive, but then glosses over some topics. There could have been more about juveniles being charged as adults, jury selection, funding for public defenders, and the militarization of police departments. The book is only 8 years old, but already seems dated. I hope there is a second edition at some point that looks at how the Black Lives Matter movement, social media, police body cameras, and the Trump presidency have affected the rates of mass incarceration and public perception.

Jul 15, 2017

Wow. This book blew me away and helped me to better appreciate the racial challenges we are facing while educating me about important civil right's history I did not know.
Not only does author Michelle Alexander write with coherence and clarity, but she makes the material into a page turner, without exaggeration or hyperbole. The facts presented disturbingly connect the dots and substantiate her thesis that the war on drugs, in effect has created an underclass of Americans, who can be legally discriminated against in housing, employment, educational opportunities and exercise of basic citizenship rights that the rest of us take for granted. And oh -- the victims just happen to be the same people that we can no longer legally discriminate via the old Jim Crow laws --- but simply by catching them with a small amount of pot -- and no other evidence of wrong doing, they can permanently be part of an underclass composed almost entirely of people of color. The war on drugs has not only been a colossal failure it is The New Jim Crow!
This would be a FABULOUS choice for a book club too, so much to think about and discuss.

Jan 18, 2017

One of the most important books I have read in the last decade. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Oct 22, 2015

Perhaps the most important thing this book does is break down the differences between the racial hostility and open bigotry that most Americans recognize as racism, and the quieter, more insidious forms of racial bias that are now that primary form of discrimination faced by American minorities. Alexander demonstrates how Supreme Court decisions that eviscerate the 4th Amendment and narrowly interpret the 14th Amendment have allowed a racially unequal criminal justice system to flourish since the War on Drugs began in the 1980s.

Read my full review at

Sep 26, 2015

For a variety of reasons (including prior employment and volunteer work) I already knew most of the pieces of what Alexander writes about. But she puts those pieces together in a way I hadn't entirely considered before--i.e. War on Drugs = a way of keeping black and brown people down without whites having to talk about race in a "post racial" age. She writes very dispassionately, in order to not antagonize white readers, but you get her point. I did put it down several times, as she got repetitive, but am glad I persevered. She doesn't really provide a definitive answer to the problems, but she sure nails the problems. Now it's up to the country that incarcerates a higher percentage of its citizens than any other developed country in the world to finally start talking and find those solutions, together.

Jul 08, 2015

I returned this book on the 7th in the drop box

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