Miguel Venancio-The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Author of Book: Michelle Alexander
Date Read:

Book Report

Michelle Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of
Colorblindness” has brought to light a national conversation about the US criminal justice
system and with the racialized social control of the past and perpetuating the legacy of slavery
and Jim Crow laws. She examines how the war on drugs and mass incarceration affects the
community of color, creating a system of oppression that maintains racial hierarchy.
The rebirth of the Jim Crow laws, Alexander argues that the US criminal justice system has
changed into a tool for controlling and marginalizing communities of color, scaringly mirroring
the intent and impact of Jim Crow laws. As its legacy continues to shape American society still

In chapter 2, The war on Drugs, a vehicle for racialized control, it exposes how the war on drugs
has disproportionately affected communities of color, despite similar drug use rates across racial
lines. It explores how drug policy has become a pretext for mass incarceration and the
criminalization of Black and Brown people. Chapter 3 examines the staggering statistics and the
human impact of mass incarceration highlighting how the US prison system has become a social
tool for social control, perpetuating racial and economic inequality.

As Ms. Alexander critiques the notion of colorblindness, arguing that it allows us to ignore the
systemic racism embedded in our institutions, it explores how this myth perpetuates the status
quo and prevents meaningful discussions about race and justice. The chapter that follows
examines the economic drivers behind mass incarceration, revealing how the prison industrial
complex profits from the perpetuation of the system perpetuating a cycle of exploitation and
oppression. In this final chapter, she makes a call for action, discussing ways to dismantle the
new Jim Crow and create a more just society, including reforming drug policies, addressing
systematic racism, and building inclusive communities.

The concept of colorblindness refers to the idea that race shouldn’t be considered in social,
political, and economic decisions. On the surface, this might seem like a crazy goal, as it
suggests that we should treat everyone equally regardless of their race. Michelle Alexander
argues that this approach just brings problems. For one, it ignores the historical and ongoing
impact of systematic racism by pretending that race doesn’t matter. We gloss over the very real
disparities and inequalities that have been built into our society.

It also fails to address contemporary racism as colorblindness can be used to dismiss or
downplay the experiences of people of color, who face structural barriers and biases that whites
do not. Also, masks racial bias by claiming that race doesn’t matter, individuals and institutions
can perpetuate racialized outcomes while maintaining a sense of innocence, which prevents a

meaningful discussion about race as colorblindness can stifle necessary conversations about race,
racism and inequality, making it harder to address and dismantle systematic injustice.
In essence, Alexander argues that colorblindness is not a solution to racism, but rather a barrier
to understanding and addressing it. Instead, she advocates for a more nuanced approach that
acknowledges and confronts the ongoing impact of racism in our society.

Alexander’s thorough research and compelling arguments blew me away. Her analysis of the
intersectionality of race, class and gender in the criminal justice system was eye opening. I was
struck by the sheer scale of mass incarceration in the U.S. and how it disproportionately affects
black and brown communities.

Alexander’s critique of the war on drugs and mandatory minimum sentencing laws is spot on.
These policies have devastated communities of color and perpetuated systemic racism. While I
agree with Alexander’s analysis, I believe there’s room for discussion on solutions I’d like to
explore, alternative approaches to drug policies and criminal justice reform.

I felt a mix of emotions while reading this book, for example, outrage, anger, sadness, and
frustration. The stories of individuals and families affected by mass incarceration were heart
wrenching. I was also inspired by Alexander’s call to action and the grassroots movement
working to dismantle the New Jim Crow.

Personal Connection:
a person of color, first generation Mexican American growing up in Glassell Park in
Northeast Los Angeles, a poor minority neighborhood, I’ve witnessed firsthand how the criminal
justice system can perpetuate racial stereotypes and biases. Alexander’s book helped me
understand the historical and systemic context of these issues. I grew up in a challenging
environment, facing poverty, violence, and a lack of opportunities. It is just heartbreaking to
know that the educational system failed me and my peers, perpetuating cycles of disadvantage.
As the stark contrast between my neighborhood in Glassell Park, Drew Street and the more
affluent areas across the railroad tracks is a stark reminder of systematic inequalities. It’s
important to recognize that these structural barriers, combined with the trauma and stress of
living in a dangerous area can have a long-lasting impact on individuals and communities.
However, is also important to acknowledge the resilience and strength that comes from surviving
and navigating such environments.