Examples Of Mass Incarceration In The New Jim Crow

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Michelle Alexander presents three compelling arguments in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. First, American society is repeating the outrages of the early Jim Crow laws, which imposed racial segregation on the bogus principle of separate but equal; second, our country has a widespread dilemma of increasing mass incarceration numbers, and, finally, that our modern so-called “colorblind” era thwarts multitudes of people from understanding or acknowledging that racist undertones exist beneath elevated rates of mass incarceration as a result of America’s “Drug War”. Michael M. Cohen, author of Jim Crow’s Drug War: Race, Coca Cola, and the Southern Origins of Drug Prohibition, provides support for Alexander’s assertion…show more content…
Michelle Alexander asserts that mass incarceration in contemporary American society is the result of targeting African Americans in the “War on Drugs” and serves to maintain a racial caste system similar to the system that existed during pre-Civil War slavery and has been propelled by what Michael Cohen calls “Jim Crow political logic” of Southern…show more content…
Cohen supports this argument when he writes that “At the root of the drug-prohibition movement in the United States is race, the driving force behind the first laws criminalizing drug use” (p 56). Cohen explains how Southern Progressives’ used image and narration to target African Americans as criminal public menaces. White employers in 1880’s New Orleans provided cocaine as a stimulant to African American dock laborers in order to help them endure the extreme exertion and long hours of loading and unloading ships (p. 70). Cocaine spread through the South to the agricultural working class, and the use of the drug grew steadily as African Americans discovered that they could work longer hours and make more money (Cohen, p. 70). Ultimately, African Americans began using cocaine recreationally, which fueled Reformers and white supremacists’ manufacture of “pornographic nightmares of black men raping white women …medical journals reported on the ‘Negro cocaine menace’…newspapers ran exposés on the use of cocaine ‘by the lowest, most criminal and depraved portion of any city’s population’”…medical doctor Edward Huntington Williams’ warned that cocaine “renders the user immune to shock”…policemen stated, “the cocaine nigger is sure hard to kill,” to perpetuate “the myth that the primary function of the system is to keep our streets safe and our homes secure by rooting out dangerous criminals and punishing them” (Cohen, pp. 72-3;
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