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Racial Incarceration In The New Jim Crow By Michelle Alexander

The issue of mass incarceration sparked conversation about racial disparities within the prison system. Following the abolishment of Jim Crow, legal racial segregation in the United States appeared dead. According to civil rights advocate Michelle Alexander this is not the case; racial segregation appears dead, but mass incarceration perpetuates a racial caste system that preserves this outdated practice. Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow argues that politicians used implicit language to ignite a racially charged War on Drugs to legally allow segregation.
Alexander’s argument about politicians’ policies on crime have a silent but understood meaning about race. She believes this dates back to President Reagan who never spoke a word directly
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She claims the War on Drugs extends beyond the legal system affecting African American communities in terms of work, housing, welfare, and other necessities (Alexander 138). After prison, felons return to society only to find that many of their rights have been redacted without their knowledge. Often, they will have difficulty acquiring a job; the government denies public housing to all felons without a job and without public housing, many will become homeless (Alexander 56). This argument focuses on the denial of rights to former felons; Alexander believes that this system mimics the Jim Crow laws. Some scholars dispute this argument claiming that today it would be more difficult to create a system in which could fully define the entire race (Forman 58). The Jim Crow laws defined what it meant to be African American, but the War on Drugs cannot. In any system there exist outliers, Alexander’s argument focuses primarily on impoverished African Americans living in ghettos. The ‘segregation’ Alexander argues for exists primarily in a metaphorical sense due to the discretion of the legal…show more content…
She claims that politicians like Nixon and Reagan first used racially coded language to sway voters which would lead to the drug war (Alexander 47). Alexander argues that the War on Drugs ignited this trend despite many people disputing her claim (102), blaming it on the decade on rampant violent crime. Her most venomous argument focuses on the racial bias in the legal system at all levels; she claims that the discretion of law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges allow for the mass incarceration of African Americans. The mass incarceration paired with racial bias and discretion allow for a segregation that affects impoverished African Americans most drastically by locking them in ghettos or prisons (Alexander 122). The most profound effect of this system is the metaphorical segregation of African Americans. Alexander points out many important arguments that force her audience to reflect over the American prison system and the justice system and whether either are truly
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