The New Jim Crow Book Summary - The New Jim Crow Book explained in key points
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The New Jim Crow summary

Michelle Alexander

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

4.6 (100 ratings)
17 mins

Brief summary

The New Jim Crow exposes the racial injustice in the American criminal justice system and its impact on African American communities.
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    The New Jim Crow
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    The mass incarceration of Black people started when the Reagan Administration declared the War on Drugs.

    Let’s start our story with two eye-opening facts.

    First, the United States maintains the highest incarceration rate in the world, some eight times higher than Germany’s.

    And second, from 1980 to 2000, the number of incarcerated people soared, from 300,000 to 2 million.

    What’s more, the vast majority of those imprisoned were people of color.

    How did this happen?

    Initially, it began in the 1970s, with Richard Nixon's strategy of playing on existing racial division to gain an electoral advantage. However, it really took hold when the Reagan Administration declared a war on drugs in 1982. Although the initiative was framed as a drug war, it had far more to do with race than anything else.

    At the time, a “war” on drugs came somewhat as a surprise, as only 2 percent of Americans believed that illegal drugs represented the country’s most urgent political issue.

    So what motivated the drug war? It had to do with the concerns of poor, rural whites, who both resented progress in Black civil rights and solidly supported Reagan’s law-and-order policy.

    In this political context, the Reagan administration launched a major media campaign and started pumping money into drug law enforcement.

    The whole enterprise was generously financed. Between 1981 and 1991, US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spending to address illegal drugs soared from $33 million to $1.42 billion.

    It’s worth noting that when the drug war was launched, even conservatives in Reagan’s own party were skeptical. But this changed in 1985, when crack cocaine appeared in poor, Black neighborhoods, leading to a major spike in violence and drug use.

    For the Reagan administration, crack cocaine and the violence it inspired was a convenient way to justify a war on drugs.

    Accordingly, the DEA ramped up its public awareness efforts, drawing attention to the “new” crack problem. Soon enough, the media jumped on the bandwagon too, playing up the characterizations, not without racial subtext, of Black “crack whores” and “crack babies” in the public imagination.

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    What is The New Jim Crow about?

    The New Jim Crow (2010) unveils an appalling system of discrimination in the United States that has led to the unprecedented mass incarceration of African-Americans. The so-called War on Drugs, under the jurisdiction of an ostensibly colorblind justice system, has only perpetuated the problem through unconscious racial bias in judgments and sentencing.

    The New Jim Crow Review

    The New Jim Crow (2010) is a powerful examination of the systemic racism within the US criminal justice system. Here's why this book is essential reading:

    • It reveals the disproportionate targeting of African Americans in the war on drugs, resulting in mass incarceration.
    • The book uncovers the devastating consequences of these policies on individuals, families, and communities.
    • It challenges readers to confront the uncomfortable truths about racial inequality and work towards meaningful change.

    Gain a deeper understanding of racial injustice with The New Jim Crow.

    Who should read The New Jim Crow?

    • Anyone who cares about racial justice
    • Anyone interested in sociology
    • Anyone who wants to learn about systematic oppression in the United States

    About the Author

    Michelle Alexander is an acclaimed civil rights lawyer and legal professor at Stanford Law School.

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    The New Jim Crow FAQs 

    What is the main message of The New Jim Crow?

    The New Jim Crow highlights the systemic racism in the US criminal justice system and its impact on African American communities.

    How long does it take to read The New Jim Crow?

    The average reading time for The New Jim Crow is around 6-8 hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The New Jim Crow a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The New Jim Crow is a powerful and eye-opening book that sheds light on racial injustice in the US criminal justice system.

    Who is the author of The New Jim Crow?

    The author of The New Jim Crow is Michelle Alexander.

    How many chapters are in The New Jim Crow?

    The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander has 6 chapters:

    1. The Rebirth of Caste
    2. The Lockdown
    3. The Color of Justice
    4. The Cruel Hand
    5. The New Jim Crow
    6. The Fire This Time

    How many pages are in The New Jim Crow?

    The New Jim Crow has 336 pages.

    When was The New Jim Crow published?

    The New Jim Crow was published in 2010.