Michelle Alexander is an author, advocate, legal scholar, and a highly prominent civil rights lawyer who was, from a young age, cared about and dedicated her life to racial and social injustice. After the election and inauguration of Barack Obama – America’s first ever African American president – many people thought that racial discrimination and injustice has ended, that we finally moved past race; but Michelle says otherwise. In the 1950’s-1960’s, the blacks gained equal rights under the law of the United States with the civil rights movement.
However, in the modern day, people of color are still treated as if they are not entitled to their rights as human beings. Michelle believes that the civil rights movement is being undermined through the mass incarceration of people of color; and what’s worse, some people don’t even recognized the familiarity of how our criminal justice system operates from an era we supposedly left behind. So, in order to spread light on the issue, she wrote a book called The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.
Through her book, Michelle is promoting equal rights and justice for all mankind, specifically for black Americans who are constantly under suspicion of the law enforcement based on the color of their skin. She focused mainly on the War on Drugs, and how it was the reason why incarceration in the United States skyrocketed. “Drug offenses alone account for two-thirds of the rise in the federal inmate population and more than half of the rise in state prisoners between 1985 and 2000,” she stated. “More than 31 million people have been arrested for drug offenses since the drug war began.” In short, more people have been arrested because of drug offenses rather than other reasons – such as murder, theft, and criminal activities – for incarceration.
I felt that she was promoting equal rights for people of color because she gave specific examples – focusing on the topic of war on drugs – of scenarios of black individuals who were stopped and searched for drugs mainly because police were highly suspicious of them. For instance, she mentioned the case of Whren and Brown, two African Americans who were stopped by police officers “to investigate them for imagined drug crimes, even though they did not have a probably cause or reasonable suspicion such crimes had actually been committed.” They did not have any obvious reason of stopping them, and lacked evidence as well; however, they used a pretext – a traffic violation- as an excuse to proceed their investigation anyway for they had a “hunch” that the two African Americans were drug criminals. In addition, I felt that she wanted to shed light about how millions of blacks who were arrested for minor crimes remained deprived of their rights and privileges. They cannot go back living their normal lives because they are forever labeled as criminals, and are refused of their basic rights and given no opportunities to function as productive, law-abiding citizens.
I definitely feel that I am an easy reader for I agree how Alexander claimed that our criminal justice system has a familiar feel of how it operated the same way it did in the past. The criminal justice system is supposed to implement justice in our society to allow it to function appropriately, effectively, and keep it secure. Instead, it is constantly giving authority to police to stop, search, and send “criminals”, mainly people of color who they highly suspect, for incarceration. Additionally, I believe that black Americans deserve justice, the same way that we all need justice, and I feel that they need to be treated the same way as we treat other human beings. They don’t deserve to be separated from our society just because of skin color; no one should be discriminated against because we are all born with our own unique aspects.
As I read her book, I couldn’t help but be upset when she mentioned instances where our justice system is discriminating against black Americans. It made me angry how they are incarcerating people of color for minor, non-violent offenses and ruined their lives forever. As an easy reader, her text was simple to understand and persuasive, and it enlightened me and made me realize that discrimination was still ongoing even after the civil rights movement. As an easy reader, her text was simple to understand and highly persuasive. It enlightened and made me realize that discrimination was still ongoing even after the civil rights movement.
Since Michelle’s book is directed towards the easy readers, many of her claims, statistics, and examples can open the hearts and minds of those who truly believe that blacks deserve to be treated fairly, and desire to help end the system of mass incarceration. I don’t think her work would have a benefit for a hard sell reader because in the beginning, she clearly states that it is “not for everyone,” and that she has a “specific audience in mind – people who care deeply about racial justice” and “those who have been struggling to persuade their friends, neighbors, relatives, teachers, co-workers, or political representatives.” Her work is directed to the easy readers, those who are willing to listen and take action to stop racial injustice, and to help end the system of mass incarceration.
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