The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

1330 Words6 Pages
As Elie Wiesel once stated, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented” (“Elie Wiesel Quote”). Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow, which discusses criminal justice and its role in mass incarceration, promotes a similar idea regarding silence when America’s racial caste system needs to be ended; however, Alexander promotes times when silence would actually be better for “the tormented.” The role of silence and lack of silence in the criminal justice system both contribute to wrongly accused individuals and growing populations behind bars.
The first appearance of the notion of silence or lack of silence occurs at the first presence of the criminal justice system: the initial meeting with a police officer. During the War on Drugs, it became common for police officers to stop and frisk people, including those without suspicious behavior, in search of drug violations. Although, not against the law, the majority of people do not know that they have the option of declining such a search and refuse to answer any questions. Professor Tracey Maclin conducted a study regarding this phenomenon concluding, “the overwhelming majority of people who are confronted by police and asked questions respond, and when asked to be searched, they comply. This is the case even among those… who have every reason to resist these tactics because they actually have something to hide” (Alexander 66). Therefore, the finding suggests that only a few people do not fear a supposed consequence of not abiding by a police officer’s request. Hence, people remain silent and do n...

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...he “oppressed” will act toward freedom and reintegration into society and will eventually succeed in gaining back their freedom, but it will not be easy. To make steps in the right direction and to determine the right choice, one must take into account the impact silence or non-silence makes on the system as a whole; the better choice does not add to the mass incarceration.

Works Cited

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: New, 2012. Print.
"Elie Wiesel Quote." BrainyQuote. Xplore, n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2014. .
King, Martin L., Jr. "Letter from Birmingham Jail." Letter to My Dear Fellow Clergymen. 16 Apr. 1963. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Print.
Santos, Michael G. Inside: Life Behind Bars in America. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2006. Print.
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