For the last couple of years social justice advocates have loudly sung the praises of Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration the Age of Colorblindness, which has garnered a huge following and spawned an allegedly new designation for racial inequity in the United States. However, former champions of the book and those seeking social change are quickly turning on Alexander’s discourse, which radical scholars and activists say promotes a false understanding of mass incarceration in the United States and serves to reinforce the status quo by quietly separating mass incarceration from its most defining and central features.
I had already read The New Jim Crow upon my recent arrival to San Francisco from Geneva. Having been praised as a “must-read” by nearly all reviewers, from The New York Times and National Public Radio to Socialist Alternative and the International Socialist Review, I was not at all surprised to find the book being heavily championed in social justice circles. During General Assembly at an Occupy Oakland meeting I was handed a printed except from the book framed between the slogans “End The New Jim Crow” and “The New Jim Crow Has Got To Go.” When asked about the praise and popularity of the book the graduate student and activist from the University of California Berkeley explained that social justice advocates had been “anxious to have their claims affirmed by popular research” and that The New Jim Crow had met this need.
Black Out: Michelle Alexander’s Operational Whitewash: