…I was in what I deemed extensive talks with a brand that I hoped would provide me with my first professional foray into menswear. My levels of excitement were off the charts and the phrase “blowing things out of proportion” could not have been more applicable. Things eventually fizzled out as…
“More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began,” Michelle Alexander told a standing room only house at the Pasadena Main Library this past Wednesday, the first of many jarring points she made in a riveting presentation.
Alexander, currently a law professor at Ohio State, had been brought in to discuss her year-old bestseller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Interest ran so high beforehand that the organizers had to move the event to a location that could accommodate the eager attendees. That evening, more than 200 people braved the pouring rain and inevitable traffic jams to crowd into the library’s main room, with dozens more shuffled into an overflow room, and even more latecomers turned away altogether. Alexander and her topic had struck a nerve.
Growing crime rates over the past 30 years don’t explain the skyrocketing numbers of black — and increasingly brown — men caught in America’s prison system, according to Alexander, who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun after attending Stanford Law. “In fact, crime rates have fluctuated over the years and are now at historical lows.”
“Most of that increase is due to the War on Drugs, a war waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color,” she said, even though studies have shown that whites use and sell illegal drugs at rates equal to or above blacks. In some black inner-city communities, four of five black youth can expect to be caught up in the criminal justice system during their lifetimes. […]
We’ve made it a felony not to just use drugs, but to use drugs and not be white at the same time. It’s even worse if you use drugs, are not white and poor. It’s a class war and a race war and we’ve essentially reinstated slavery. The American prison populace, which is disproportionately, overwhelmingly Black and Latino are forced to perform unpaid labour as part of their prison sentence. At best, we’ve reinstated a form of indentured servitude. And it is horrifying how few people actually know or care that we’re doing this.