Reading Response

Published: 2021/11/18
Number of words: 916

Michelle Alexander, in his book The New Jim Crow, makes a radical attack on the system of racial discrimination that still exists and flourishes in the US. However, the author’s attention is attracted to one particular aspect of the US politics in the last decades, which is often neglected by the social activist, mass incarceration of black. To my opinion, the trend presented by Alexander also explains the number of issues that imbue the discrimination and inequality in the US society such as disproportionate participation in the electoral democracy, the rationalization of nonfunctional protectionist measures, and the meritocratic myth.

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Firstly, Alexander points that the exclusion of the large group of Americans from the electoral democracy, which helps to maintain a status quo. One of the most serious consequences of the incarceration is the denial of the right to vote. The author highlights the legal situation in the US noting that forty-eight states and the District of Columbia prohibit inmates from voting, and some states deny the right to vote till the rest of the life after felony (Alexander 153). However, at the same time, such developed countries as Germany allows prisoners to vote. Additionally, even when former inmates technically have a right to vote, they opt not to do it due to the difficulties in the process of the restoration of the voting right. As a result, people who ended up in prison due to the discriminative policies cannot defend their rights by traditional political participations. The black people simply cannot support the candidate, which would change the system. Moreover, the attention to the topic is especially interesting in the lights of the last elections, when it turned out that not only popular vote in is favor of another candidate but many people are ready to go to the streets, who are traditionally silent during the election. In general, middle-class, middle-aged white Americans are more likely to participate in the political decision-making. At the same time, younger people, minorities, and uneducated Americans fail to vote due to a variety of factors such legal restrictions, disappointment in the government, and the lack of time and resources to come to the polling station. Thus, people, who already are in privileged position are likely to save its position by legal means constructed to their interests.

Further, the book explores how protectionist rhetorics are employed to rationalize discrimination. Alexander indicates the inconsistencies in the War on Drugs, which turns the whole policy in the discrimination mechanism. In October 1992, when President Reagan announced the War on Drugs, only 2 percent of Americans believed that it was the most important issues to fight (Alexander 49). However, only later, the media started a discourse about the drugs in America, and the plague of the crack appeared on the streets. Moreover, Alexander numerously shows that the government allocated large sums to the program, despite its dubious efficiency. After the introduction of the stop-and-frisk rule, the black youth were mostly targeted by it. However, the surveys found that the white youth are more likely to engage in drug dealing than the blacks (Alexander 97). Thus, the efforts of the president’s administration were not directed on the drug as a complex problem but were used to attack the minorities. It is easy to find the similarities of the War on Drug with the War on Terrorism nowadays. The War on Terrorism is also based on the rhetorics of fear, which normalizes the discrimination and uses the large sums of budget’s money. For instance, recently, Trump issued an order that completely banned the residents from seven Muslim countries from traveling to the US. However, the countries in the list were chosen rather arbitrary than based on the real threat. It turned out that residents of the banned countries did not take part in any terrorist attack in the US. However, the fear of terrorism as fear of drugs made the ban legal.

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Finally, the author proves one more time that America is not meritocratic society. On the contrary, today’s America has a system of discrimination similar to Jim Crow, and sometimes even worse. With a low access to education, societal support, and safe environment, the black men are pushed to crime. At the same time, they are more likely to suffer the severe punishment that the whites. Alexander points that black men in some states were sent to prison on drug charges at to the rate twenty-five times higher than those of white men (Alexander 7). Additionally, after the sentence, the blacks are not likely to return to the normal life simply to the barriers that society builds. Thus, despite the progress in the sphere of human rights, the discrimination did not disappear. In my experience, the myth of American opportunities is one of the most influential ideological constructs in the America. Most of the Hollywood films, media and cartoons teach that everyone can make it in America. Nevertheless, I often notice that the obstacles to the dream differ depending on where you are born.

To sum up, The New Jim Crow is a book that not only highlights the continuation of racism in America through the law enforcement system but also presents a general picture of discriminative logic behind the protectionist claims. Thus, Alexander enhances the critical sensitivity and helps to detect discrepancies between government rhetorics and real efficiency of radical policies.

Works Cited

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow. 1st ed., New York, NY, New Press, 2012.

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