Hey! It’s me again! I bet you’re getting really tired of me now. Sorry.
I’m going to continue on with another look into non-fiction. I’m also getting political. So… no alcohol this week. Unless you need something to assuage your rage, sorrow, and sheer cynicism… in which case, you do you. But read the book sober. Or use it to get sober because, well, this is a sobering book.
I read The New Jim Crow during my very brief tenure as a grad student. (This isn’t the time to explain what happened in detail, but suffice it to say that I realized I did not want to be a professional historian and left school.) I was in a class on African American history (something I think more people should take), and I have never spent an angrier few months in my life. This wasn’t the only book I read, of course, but it was definitely the one I took away with me. The one that I will tell people to read until the day I die… or, by some miracle, I no longer need to.
The New Jim Crow is a discussion of the system of mass incarceration in the United States, a system that is, in essence, the new system of Jim Crow. Essentially, the criminal justice system uses the War on Drugs to enforce discrimination against all sorts of minorities and the socio-economically disadvantaged, but African American males in particular. Basically, the War on Drugs is just code for “put the black people in prison” (and, of course, under the 13th Amendment, prisoners are not excused from what is very obviously slave labor). We in the United States have the highest rate of incarceration in the world, and a disproportionate number of those prisoners are black men. And, to top it all off, it’s actually white people that are more likely to commit drug crimes; they just don’t get imprisoned for it.
(Yes, the documentary 13th on Netflix is heavily influenced by The New Jim Crow, so you should watch that, too. But, as ever, the book is better than the movie.)
I read this book five years ago, and it remains one of the most important books I have ever read. Read it, people. Read it sober. Drink afterwards.
I’ll be back tomorrow. Tomorrow’s technically my turn.
Read this book, dammit.