Monday, December 17, 2012

Read it & weep. No, rage. No: act!

I just finished reading The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. 

I've known about this book for some time, of course, as it has had a major impact around the country, an ever-growing impact since its first publication two years ago. A couple months ago I attended a huge meeting on mass incarceration and the racist prison-industrial complex that took place at Riverside Church in Manhattan, where Ms. Alexander spoke, along with Angela Davis, Cornel West and others including Mumia Abu-Jamal live by telephone hookup from prison. It was an electrifying event, thousands-strong, most of them young people, such an encouraging sign about the potential for building this movement. The talks were superb, especially Michelle Alexander's. The work to which she is devoting her considerable energies is an inspiring, courageous call to action for all the rest of us, all who fight against racism and for justice.

This is one of the most important books, as well as one of the best, that I've read in a long time. You read this book and you want to buy 100 copies and force them into the hands of everyone you know and tell them to stop everything and read it. Even activists in the struggles for social justice including prisoner-solidarity work, even those who already agree with the political argument of this book and are aware of the basics of the situation elucidated in this book -- that is, that there is a war against the Black community being carried out in the name of a "war on drugs"--will learn much from The New Jim Crow. Alexander harnesses a wealth of information--facts, figures, studies, legal cases--and puts it together to present a cogent, stirring, impassioned argument that is ultimately a call to action.

This is not an easy book to read. The truths told here are bitter and hard. The human suffering wrought by the criminal "justice" system and its racist "war on drugs" is horrific. But you don't read this book for ease; you read it to inform and arm yourself so that you can step up and become a better fighter. This is a necessary book. Read it, and join the movement against mass incarceration.