In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. Yet, as legal star Michelle Alexander reveals, today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against convicted criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination - employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of educational opportunity, denial of food stamps and other public benefits, and exclusion from jury service - are suddenly legal.
©2012 Michelle Alexander (P)2012 Recorded Books, LLC
Private intellectual, writer, and retired academic. Currently R&D director for Gravitational Systems Engineering, Inc.
This a very dense yet understandable expaination of a common corruption of US justice.
It revealed the silent struggles of those people whom we, despite our race, consider as the others. It brought in sharp relief the perils of casual drug use and poverty. If you enjoyed the book the Working Poor, this book is the other side of the page. I would also add that the overriding sense of the fallacy of exceptionalism, as applied to any group. In brief, most people are not exceptional, yet should you need to be above average to live a good life, and have a secure future? Should poverty or race magnify your lack of exceptionalism often to the level of tragedy. Should a teenage indescretion doom you to never being eligble to vote, or be eliglble for any public assistance, including basic food security. And can we afford to keep and increasingly large segment of the population in custody or supervision?
Although scenes are not relevant to this book, the most compelling understanding that I gained was the impact of many seemingly innocous supreme court decisions.
The stories about how grandmothers have been evicted from public housing because their grandson was arrested for drug possesion in a nearby park. Also, the explaination of pretex stops as a policy to search vehicles.
We should all be aware of this and many other forms of corruption that are rife in the US justice and legislative systems. If not from a sense of fairness, then from a sense of self peservation. As this population becomes more diverse these kinds of injustices are the meat and gravy of widespread social unrest. As our economy becomes increasingly dependent on machines, websites, and automation more and more people will be forced out of the mainstream of American life, and into the disenfranchised. Remember the history of the French revolution.
I recommend this book to everyone - it contains ideas that we, as a free democracy must face - how can we assure equal opportunity for all.
This book provides shocking statistics, surveys and testimonials arguing that the War on Drugs has become a war on young black men and is moving a huge percentage of these men into the control of our prison system, often for trivial amounts of drugs.
I thought the narrator read as if this book were a story instead of the important thesis it is. Occasionally the narrator put the emphasis on the wrong words in a phrase, suggesting she was just reading words and not understanding the facts she was reading. Lastly, she pronounced 'lenGth' as 'lenth' and often pronounced 'd' as 't' as in 'Baldwin', 'administration', 'would' and others. It is not the Government 'Accountability' Office, either.
A sobering look at our legal system (along with education and affirmative action) and the horrific effect it has had on the lives of black men (and thus all of us interested in a fair society).
'The War on Drugs' uses the 'Shock and Awe' of our legal system to annihilate the lives of black men.
Is the United States still a racially divided country - using the legal system to discriminate against young black men?
Not only is the 'War on Drugs' lost, but it has annihilated an entire segment of our population - young black men.
How our legal system, through the 'War on Drugs' has destroyed the lives of young minorities, especially blacks.
This book has at least 30 new and inter-related concepts about the war on drugs, the massive incarceration of black men, arrests for tiny amounts of drugs the horrible life of anyone who becomes a felon. the problems with a 'color-blind' society and much more. Slavery and Jim Crow laws in their time may not have been as bad for young black men as the war on drugs is today.
This book also touches on other better-understood systemic problems in today's society, including unequal housing opportunities, unequal education opportunities, the failures of affirmative action and more. These huge intractable issues, along with the author's main topic, the unfairness of the implementation of the war on drugs, provide a grim picture of how difficult it will be to change society to provide 'justice for all'.
As young human living in the Bay Area, I intuitively knew the deck was stacked against me and all those who looked like me. Thank you Michelle Alexander for Illuminating the very nature of our nations parasitic and perverted system of justice.
To think in my juvenile rebellion against this system I unwittingly played their game. I, like the others in my hood, acted out the roles displayed on TV and the movies eventually landing me in jail. While in jail I realized my juvenile rebellion, subsequent jail time, and fines were feeding the very parasites I was rebelling against. Unbeknownst to me these same parasites are feeding on poor whites as well, and pitting us against each other.
Professional librarian type, amateur historian.
I knew the book was going to make me mad, but I didn’t think my annoyance would be with the author, but the system. I don’t like either.
Where do I start with why I think someone else should have written the book. Someone less defeatist, with her woe are us attitude, would have been better. To battle the problem you don’t need Eeyore always saying well that strategy was tried but now it’s closed off and we can’t do anything. She adds an extra layer of depression that undermines the impetus for change. If you suffer from depression stay away from this book.
There are facts I don’t argue with but the author’s interpretation of them is annoying, like her defeatism. She goes with the South as racist narrative, but the way that is played out seems to let the rest of the country off the hook. The ghetto as we know it in America is a very northern thing. The ghetto is mentioned and in parts is the focus but its geography gets forgotten. There are other things too, such as over and under crediting various players in the government and civic sphere.
When talking about what citizen rights that are lost when branded a felon she mentions jury duty and voting. Yes, serving as a juror is important, but very few Americans are dying to serve and lose a few days of work. Also all Americans are bad about voting. American turnout for mid-term elections, those times when voting for the locals who actually impact their day to day life (schools, local roads, etc) the turnout is less than 50%, lately 30someodd percent. A lot of people get by without voting or serving on juries. Democracy is more than being heard once a year.
Another problem with the narrative, is that it sacrifices coalition building at the expense of adding on the depressingness. She is preaching to her own choir using rhetoric that pushes aside accuracy to lob rocks at groups that could help with the problem, such as libertarians who are challenging the militarization of police or blacks in power. In her conclusions, she takes time to lash out at the choir. She’s dissatisfied with civil rights lawyers wanting them to be something other than what they are. She attacks civil rights gains obtained on “the cheap”. It’s cheap only because she didn’t buy it.
I am a historian and referring to certain groups simply as “conservatives” is horribly clunky if not inaccurate when talking about certain time periods, and like the thing with the South, it lets the left off the hook. She also uses the term “passing” during the actual Jim Crow era incorrectly. It meant “passing for white” not “coping”, which seems to be the word she needs to use. She might have dumbed down the language for a broader, non-academic audience, but as a result she sacrificed accuracy.
She also mixes the problems of African Americans with prison records and felonies with that of all African Americans, regardless of class or status. The author’s remarks regarding non-poor blacks or black “elites” is negatively all over the place. It might be a foreign idea that black middle & upper classes may want certain things for themselves, not just to impress or appease whites. She damns the black middle class for pushing for slum clearance and efforts to remove the black ghetto she spends most of the book complaining about. In regards to family matters, yes, child support is one of many burdens placed on men returning from prison, but it needs to be paid. She seems to want to enable deadbeat dads.
I have no problem with the narration. In the beginning there are male voices, an unknown and I guess Cornell West or someone reading as Cornell West. She sounds annoyed, and that’s okay. It might have added to my annoyance with the author.
I finished the book so my complaint could be complete.
The author is an attorney and writes like one. The exact same line is repeated over and over again. Alexander has way of listing facts and then subtly introduce an opinion to try to present it as another fact. I guess I feel the book is poorly edited.
Listening to Jefferson and Hamilton
Very good performance.
Alexander is kind of all over the place. She list a lot of problems but very few solutions. She contradicts herself a lot i.e. she states in the beginning of the book that this book is only going to deal with Black men, but then through out the entire book she includes hispanics. The book left me with the feeling there was nothing a single person could do.
This is another book that I wish audible.com would include the meta data for the book. The author does not reference her sources in the text of this version of the book so I have no way to look at the information and studies she is quoting from.
By the end of the book I think a better title for this book would have been "Why is everyone stupid except me?" Alexander claims prosecutors and DAs are criminals, judges are too stupid to understand the laws they are charged to uphold, and public defenders just don't care. Since the author is an attorney and thus an officer of the court isn't she bound to report of file claims of moral or criminal wrong doings in the league system?
In this book the reader learns that everyone is at fault for the current preponderance of black men incarcerated in the United States today.Well except her and civil rights organizations. After she gives a brief list of the things civil rights organizations are doing wrong including being top heavy with attorneys (such as herself) she states that these organizations can't be held responsible for the problems in the judicial system today.
There are however plenty of people who are to blame. From my memory they are; white men, rural whites, poor whites, automakers, steel mills, the U.S. government, Presidents Obama, Clinton, Reagan, Johnson, and Roosevelt, Dick Cheney, universities, people who don't see color, people who see color, every man who has ever been a policeman or firefighter, people who support affirmative action, people who don't support affirmative action, black police chiefs, black police officers, the justice department,blacks who marry outside of their own race(this comment really shocked me coming from someone preaching this love and understanding message), the prison system, and I am sure the are more but you get the point.
Alexander paints society with a very wide brush. If one officer is bad then they all are. And she applies this idea to many of the groups listed above.
I was also left with the feeling when I was finished with the book that Alexander feels that young black men are too weak, poor, or uneducated to do anything for themselves. I feel she gives the part of society that she is saying we as a society need to lift up, very little credit for being strong and independent.
There is a good story here that needs to be told but this book did not do it very well.
While the disproportionate level of black incarceration reported in this book is shocking enough to rally the objective minded into accepting the idea that racial bias is to blame, with deeper thought we can see how easily disparate causes may be conflated in this issue.
Is it honest to lump the high number of incarcerated black males into the same group as if all of them are victims, even if the legacy of unfair discrimination prejudices us in that direction? How many of the jailed group got there legitimately? The idea that the “get tough on crime” philosophy decried in this work is a conscious effort to herd black men into jail is the sort of comment that depends heavily upon white guilt, a tactic worn threadbare from overuse. Are we expected to follow some kind of quota system so that only a proportionate number of black offenders are taken off the street?
The author insists that the war on drugs is a vehicle of oppression. But having identified it as such, why does she not encourage resistance to this exposed enemy? Why not rally African-Americans to reject illegal drugs and the culture that sustains those drugs, now that the way forward is clear? Instead she uses the malady as an excuse, blaming the usual suspects, as if a group can truly grow strong by compelling another group to lift them out of a pit. Nay! I have seen and known far too many tough and admirable African-Americans to buy this argument.
And as other reviewers have noted, to conveniently leave out the pivotal detail about Ricky Ray Rector’s execution—that he damaged his own brain with a suicide attempt—leaves a hole in her credibility one could drive a truck through.
After finishing the book I bought eight copies in paperback for others to read. This is not an easy read, but it is a "must read".
This work of investigative history reveals the roots of racial inequality in American Justice; the secret 'mission' of the prison-industrial complex, the racism inherent to the justice system, and how it relates to the 'social caste' system in America. This book is a revelation AND truly revolutionary.
Plantation Prison System: The New Slavery in Neo-Feudal America
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