Race and Racism in Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow
“The New Jim Crow” is a wonderful account on the revival of a racially biased society in the United States. Race is defined as a group of human beings distinguished by a common origin, shared habits, and interests or same physical attributes. Racism, on the other hand, refers to the discrimination against an individual based on their race. Racism can be extended to include the belief that a given race has specific attributes which makes it superior or inferior compared to other races. This paper will seek to address race and racism by critically reviewing “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander.
Jim Crow refers to a section of the state constitution used to impose discrimination policies based on color, social class or family background. In that regard, members of the African-American community were not able to access equal social and political opportunities simply because they were believed to come from an inferior race. Though the Jim Crow sections of the state constitutions supporting racial segregation have been done away with, the current American legal system has changed to be “The New Jim Crow.” And so, African-Americans and other minority groups in the United States are made to serve unfair legal restrictions which undermine their privileges as American citizens. Despite many people believing that racial discrimination ended in the 1960s thanks to a number of civil rights movements, Michelle Alexander through “The New Jim Crow” gives a picture of how government institutions are up to suppress the achievement of a one race society. The legal system is not consistent in its administration of justice. “The same supreme court that had ordered integration and encouraged civil rights legislation” was now “bending over backwards to help criminals” who were terrorizing black people (Alexander 42). Again, the shortening of jail sentences for African-Americans will not serve to improve the well-being of the color community, but constitutional amendments to eradicate partisan racial policies will prove significant in changing the American racial narrative.
“The New Jim Crow” puts into perspective the war on drugs and how it has been used as a tool to undermine the status of African-American citizens in the United States. It is a common assumption by members of the white race that all drug-related problems in the United States are making of the black community. The Drug Enforcement Administration, which is the trusted federal wing to handle the use and spread of dangerous drugs, has been pinpointing few individuals from the black community and criminalizing them with drug-related charges hence leading to increased numbers of black people in the American correctional facilities. For this reason, Michelle Alexander seeks to shade light and bring into public knowledge the vice of social stratification, where black people and members of minority groups are made to suffer for crimes they didn’t commit. “The war on drugs offered whites opposed to racial reforms a unique opportunity to express their hostility towards blacks” (Alexander 53). The book is aimed at mobilizing the civil rights fraternity to take action against a biased government system which is victimizing its own citizens on a color basis. The author is adding her voice to support a discriminated community by explaining to them how the system is working against them and informing them of the possible avenues through which lasting solutions to racial problems can be achieved.
In addition, Michelle Alexander denotes racial history as an abandoned discussion among American households. Using the term race has been made to sound irrelevant in the United States, with many people believing that racial discrimination was a thing of the past while in a real sense it is still a common vice. “Some discrimination would be conscious and deliberate, as many honestly and consciously would believe that black men deserve more scrutiny and harsher treatment” (Alexander 105). Notwithstanding the milestone achieved in racial integration, the slaves brought in from Africa as a result of the slave trade are yet to obtain the status they desire in the American society. Sending their kids to separate schools doesn't conform to the norms and deeds of a healthy society and further limiting their economic opportunities only serves to undermine them rather than controlling social problems. The belief that all Americans are in a position to achieve what they dream is only true to some as “The New Jim Crow” hinders them from securing nice jobs and accessing bank loans to startup businesses. The colorblind policies imposed by a biased legal system doesn’t give them the conducive environment required for personal development thereby poverty will for long be a black people’s crisis.
In conclusion, the election of Barrack Obama as the first black president of the United States has not convinced Alexander Michelle that America has surpassed racial challenges. Importantly, the existence of economic and social barriers against people of color and other minority groups cannot be overshadowed by few achievements made by African-American individuals. The author doesn’t aim to revive racial antagonism but rather wishes to emphasize the need for equal treatment of all races in the United States. Race or social class should not be a determining factor when it comes to employment or administration of justice, therefore, “The New Jim Crow” should serve as a mirror for Americans to see into themselves. Policy makers, legal practitioners, and politicians should not perceive the book as an attack on their side but a challenge to change towards establishing an all-inclusive society.