Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!
Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow is an astonishing, eye-opening book about how apparently race-neutral and colorblind laws can be used to perpetuate a system of racial injustice.
One argument Alexander raises in support of her conclusion is the disparity between white and non-white drug-related arrests in The War on Drugs. Although the law is technically not racist, its enforcement is tellingly slanted:
In at least fifteen states, blacks are admitted to prison on drug charges at a rate from twenty to fifty-seven times greater than that of white men. In fact, nationwide, the rate of incarceration for African American drug offenders dwarfs the rate of whites… People of all races use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates. (98-99, cited below)
These statistics are astonishing and speak to how the enforcement of these laws shows a racial disparity that leads to a kind of new “undercaste”–as Alexander puts it. Re-read that quote and let the numbers sink in. The incarceration rate for blacks in some states is fifty-seven times that of whites for the same crimes, despite the fact that there is no evidence suggesting blacks are more likely to be drug users (in fact, some studies cited in the book show that whites are more likely to be drug users in some areas).
I highly recommend The New Jim Crow to you, dear readers, as a book that will challenge you in ways that may not all be expected.
Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow (New York: The New Press, 2011 edition).
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