MLA SAMPLE II Book Review and Personal Commentary The New Jim Crow

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Name of Author:
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Book Review and Personal Commentary: “The new Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of
Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Written by Alexander Michelle and published in 2012 by the New Press, The new Jim Crow:
Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness stands out as one of the most vivid
presentations of the reality of injustices and societal oppression in the American society.
Notably, Alexander’s writing captures all the elemental issues affecting mass incarceration in the
American community. Not only does she exhibit the fact that numerous racial elements play part
in the process but also manages to highlight the other issues tied to this theme. Some of them
include the illusions of nonexistent progress against racism in the society, the presence of social
control, unwarranted societal surveillance, societal violence, racial castes, and societal
conspiracies among other challenges. According to Alexander, it may almost appear that the war
on drugs within the American society is a conspiracy of various races against others.
Nonetheless, she indicates that this theory cannot stand parse as many elements of the
conspiratorial approach indicate otherwise. To begin with, the onset of this war occurred in the
face of a noticeable decline in drug crime. Again, she expresses a consistent trend in the lack of
review and action against mass incarceration in the American society. One factor she points a
finger to is the election of President Barack Obama, which she believes slowed down action
against mass incarceration and presented the illusion of non-existent advancements. In sum,
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Alexander highlights the system of justice, the law, societal stereotypes, various societal
hierarchies, racial castes, and mythologies to cover the topic of mass incarceration in a unique
and outstanding way.
Chapter One: The Rebirth of Caste; The Racial Caste Systems
In summary, Chapter One of the text is a review of the evolution of the Caste Systems of racism
from the colonial era to the end of the twentieth century. In this coverage, the author proves to us
that racism has always existed and may continue to exist into the future to an unlimited age.
Evolutionarily, racism has also been adaptable and has borne the ability to transform into a new
trend every time its previous system is challenged. Hence, she begins this coverage by evaluating
the colonial era. During this period, she indicates that the racial caste system placed blacks at the
bottom of the system where they were oppressed and their fundamental human rights overtly
misused. Thus, they were bought or merely captured then transported to America where they
became slaves to supply cheap labor at the expense of their freedom and almost no
compensation. The next phase of the racial caste systems was that of Jim Crow. Although
Alexander indicates that this system deceptively appeared different, she analyzes that the
principles underlying its operations remained similar to those of the slavery time. Thus, blacks
and other people of color were still suppressed, monitored, and regulated. Actions of civil rights
movements brought down this system and to the amazement of the un-expecting, the war on
drugs replaced it. This was ran across the 1980s and 1990s.
Chapter Two: The Lockdown; The Criminal Justice System
Through a step-by-step process, Alexander analyses the criminal justice system in chapter two.
In her analysis, she shows the path incarceration takes with its victims. She opens the process at
the point of arrest with all the factors that play in causing those who will ultimately end in
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incarceration for drugs to be arrested. They then get charged and ultimately get imprisoned.
While the author sees the good intent in the war on drugs, she argues that a police force that has
remained racially imbalanced for centuries has consistently been allowed to execute the war on
drugs with minimal or no oversight. The author goes ahead to indicate that many laws created by
a series of court rulings have overwhelmingly handed over too much power to the police. They
stop, frisk, and harass citizens with mush freedom and protection. This is to the extent it has
become challenging to civil rights organizations to have these conditions reversed.
On the other hand, the power of the police over citizens in the war on drugs has been
further worsened by the federal government’s full authorization of police use of military
facilities like those of the SWAT and the DEA. Hence, these groups burst any suspected drug
circles and seize and freeze the assets of any ‘merely suspected’ drug operatives. Alexander
indicates that the last point on seizing assets has acted as a catalyst to numerous police
departments which get funded by proceeds from such operations. In the view of the Author, there
is no justice in this system. Many courtroom activities are also oppressive and flawed. Many
suspects never get to meet their lawyers and get misrepresented in court. Many get tricked into
plea bargains whose consequences they do not understand. Still, the presence of mandatory
minimum sentences for various drug offences make petty drug offenders including first time
offenders to serve sentences that last decades, which they should not. In sum, Alexander
indicates that the road to incarceration is unfair, discriminative, and unjust in a system that is
supposed to deliver justice.
Chapter Three: The Color of Justice; Racial Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System
Alexander opens this chapter by presenting some alarming statistics concerning the mass
incarceration of drug dealing and consuming suspects. In many states, blacks who go to prison
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for drug related charges constitute up to 80-90% of all the population incarcerated for the same.
In a society where blacks are clearly a minority, this discrepancy remains abnormal and
overwhelmingly unjustifiable. Hence, she indicates that racial discrimination clearly exists in the
criminal justice system. Quintessentially, she rules out black culture as a cause of this
discrepancy in the number of the incarcerated. She also indicates that it is not possible to blame
“old-fashioned” or deliberate racism for these overwhelming limits of discrimination.
To her, the system has an unconscious way of discriminating blacks. First, she indicates
that many qualified, law-abiding black jurors always get barred from serving in juries. This
makes the system present the face of African Americans getting sent to prison by white jurors.
Another example of discrimination in the system that she points out is that of one hundred-to-one
ratio in the sentencing of convicts found with crack cocaine as opposed to those with powder
cocaine. The basic view here is that ‘cocaine is cocaine’. It should be discriminative if one
person found with one type of cocaine gets one year in jail while the other gets a hundred years.
This far the issue of discrimination is not revealed, however, it appears when one is made aware
that crack cocaine; the one that attracts a hundred times a sentence has statistically been proven
to be more popular with blacks. In sum, she expressed that this is a system with laws that appear
neutral, but which remains overwhelmingly discriminatory.
Chapter Four: The Cruel Hand; Stigma on Felons, Poverty, and Joblessness
Alexander proceeds in chapter four to analyze the stigma and challenges that accompany the
conviction of a suspect of drug activity into a felon. There are cases when upon conviction,
suspects get offered bargain options in which prison gets eliminated. Many of these offers look
viable to the convicts and the mere fact that they can evade prison make them accept the offers
very quickly. However, most of them are never aware of the challenges that come with such
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bargains. They clearly do not know that such agreements drive them into an “undercaste” of
American society. When they emerge with criminal records and their names on offender
registers, they face a society that rejects them at every corner, charges them overwhelming limits
of fees, and presents them with conditions they cannot evade. Soon, they find themselves in
prison again after attempting to evade it. Many of the American states deny convicted felons the
right to vote or receive various forms of public assistance.
Markedly, many private and public jobs require all applicants to declare if ever they had a
criminal record. Apparently, most employers avoid individuals with criminal records. When
these individuals happen to secure jobs, they always owe the state so much money that almost all
their income gets seized to compensate the state. Ultimately, they end up homeless, and broke
and almost get driven back to petty crimes by the system. In Alexander’s opinion, many people
cannot believe that many blacks simply want ordinary, safe, and healthy lives. It is not gangsta or
black culture that drives them to crime, rather it is poverty and the deprivation of opportunities of
all kinds in the society that leaves them helpless.
Chapter Five: The New Jim Crow; Jim Crow VS Mass Incarceration
Moving on to compare the former discriminatory system of Jim Crow and the current one of
Mass Incarceration, Alexander points to the fact that many blacks go to prison when they should
actually not. She begins this chapter by presenting moments when celebrities, famous
personalities, and outstanding politicians have had to ask questions about where all the black
men who get arrested have disappeared to. Apparently, no honest answer has ever been given to
this question and Alexander’s first step to solving this problem is the belief that some limits of
honesty are necessary before the problem can be solved. With this, she proceeds to evaluate the
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fundamental similarities and difference between Jim Crow and the current one of Mass
Incarceration that makes her call the latter ‘The New Jim Crow’.
The two systems emerge as outstandingly similar. She identifies that both of these
systems are not honest in the issues they address. Instead, they are noticeable scapegoats created
for the purposes of redirecting the anger of working-class whites from the true challenges and
problems that face their society. Instead, these systems seek to point a finger at the people of
color as the scapegoating source of challenges that are rather societal and economic. This is
achieved in both systems by attempting to massively associate blacks with criminality. Another
imminent similarity obtained by the author is that of segregation to the extent white and black
people almost achieve the existence of two worlds within one society. One very challenging
element about this segregation and fighting it is the fact that is it heavily dependent on legal and
political disenfranchisements of blacks which may not be possible to eliminate.
The author then moves to the differences between the systems but all of which work to
achieve the goals targeted by the similarities. While Jim Crow was overtly racist, mass
incarceration presents a neutral face yet perpetuates an underground Jim Crow. Alexander’s only
dream of ever raising hope in this system is through solving these differential challenges. As an
oppressed community, most blacks have pulled together to try and fight the oppressive system.
This is in politics, the justice system, and other sectors. This all ends up in a divided community
whose achievements are limited by in-fights that originate from within. Restoring equality can be
the only way of ensuring justice.
Chapter Six: The Fire This Time
Chapter six is the final chapter of Alexander’s book. In this chapter, she points out that the
society has persistently stayed in a state of denial over mass incarceration over the years.
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Specifically, she directs this accusation to civil rights lawyers from whom she believes more
should be heard against the unjust and oppressive trend. Analytically, she notes a difference
between mass incarceration and other racial justice issues that have been previously been
overcome in the American society. Mentioning an example of Rosa Parks in the 1950s, she
indicates that it is not easy to find modern-day convicted felons after whom people can establish
a struggle. This has acted as a distracting and dissuading factor for civil rights lawyers and
activists. Admitting not having a clearly viable solution to the problem of mass incarceration, the
author expresses the belief that she may inspire others to propel the dream of ending mass
incarceration. However, she makes various suggestions, which she believes can help restore
these challenges. Some of these include ending racial profiling, demilitarization of the police,
and winning in “the court of public opinion” among other steps.
Personal Commentary
I find Alexander’s text one of the most objective, convincing, articulate, and realistic in
analyzing and attempting to solve the challenge of mass incarceration in modern-day American
society. First, the text is progressively organized in a way that it delivers a step-by-step review of
the issues. The author begins by informing us about the evolving re-emergence of the racial caste
system. She then reviews the criminal justice system and the flaws that make it racial and
discriminative. Before she refers to mass incarceration as The New Jim Crow, she justifies this
name by obtaining all the similarities and differences involved in the two systems. It is after
realizing that all these factors work to make the goals of Jim Crow similar to those of mass
incarceration that she names the latter The New Jim Crow. After all these, the author makes the
most positive step of making recommendations on ways of ending this challenge. Some of these
include ending racial profiling, demilitarization of the police, and winning in “the court of public
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opinion”. I find the text comprehensive, progressive, and detailed on the issue of race and mass
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Work Cited
Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New
York: New Press, 2012. Print.

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