Thursday, November 25, 2010



A book review

In the face of overwhelming racially disparate statistics, the 1954 US Supreme Court reversed the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson decision in rendering Brown v. Board of Education. By concluding that "separate is inherently unequal," the high court legally erased hundreds of years of the time honored American tradition of segregation based on race. OR DID THEY?

In THE NEW JIM CROW: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander rips the blindfold from the face of Lady Justice and exposes her uneven scales negatively weighted against the lives, fortunes and futures of black Americans. Alexander provides stunning and disturbing examples of law enforcement run amok with the aid and comfort of all three branches of government, without regard to the "separate and unequal" rise in the prison population based primarily on the so-called WAR ON DRUGS.

Huge financial incentives have caused police departments to divert manpower and resources away from serious, violent crime toward arresting and incarcerating non-serious, non-violent drug users in predominately non-white neighborhoods. And the incentives don't stop there. The overall construction and privatization of prisons have been a constant money making venture even in today's poor economic times.

Ms. Alexander clearly articulates the total disenfranchisement of those labeled "felons" for minor drug possession, their isolation in predominately white, prison dependent communities, the trauma inflicted on their families, and the persistent doors slammed in their face upon returning to society - all while the drug use of their white counterparts is ignored or often charged as minor misdemeanors.

In reading THE NEW JIM CROW, it becomes painfully clear that a racial caste system has been allowed to proliferate, in the name of the law, as the US Supreme Court has virtually rubber stamped the infliction of racial biases by prosecutors. The high court has ruled that the overwhelming statistical evidence of arrests, felony prosecutions, unfavorable plea offers and incarcerations directed toward non-white suspects, as opposed to white lawbreakers of similar drug crimes, is not germain to the process and not a consideration upon appeal. Alexander describes those decisions as "absurd." I would characterize them as insane.

The so-called WAR ON DRUGS in America is not being waged by law enforcement as an altruistic endeavor to seriously rid our society or save it from the scourge of illegal drugs. Possessors of marijuana have received harsher prison sentences than murderers, rapists, and armed robbers. This war has been used to mitigate and marginalize the few decades of freedom and liberty that black people in America have fought and died for. And anyone who doubts this conclusion, or finds it absurd or insane, is invited to read THE NEW JIM CROW and make their case. Michelle Alexander has certainly made hers.

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