Sometimes a book comes along that both captures an emerging social movement and pushes it into the next stage. The New Jim Crow is one of those books. Michelle Alexander examines the statistics of the U.S. penal system and the results are astounding. Not only does America have a quarter of all prisoners globally, it also arrests and locks up a disproportionate amount of black Americans. Alexander shows that it is not just life in jail that is destroying black lives, but life outside too, as ex-offenders find it nigh on impossible to secure housing, a job, and even the ability to vote. Families are torn apart and communities are destroyed, yet the fact that it is black Americans who bear the brunt of this pain has never been part of the national conversation about crime in America. Thanks to Michelle Alexander (and other countless activists) it is now one of the major sociological conversations of the new millennium in America, and with events in Ferguson and elsewhere continuing to make headlines, that conversation isn't going to stop anytime soon. A truly essential book.
It is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. Yet, as legal star Alexander reveals, today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against convicted criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans.