If you didn’t know already, the Amnesty International St. Louis chapter has its own book club, where we read human rights book on a bi-monthly basis and discuss the topics. Most recently, we read The Unheard Truth: Poverty and Human Rights, by Irene Kahn, the first woman, first Asian, and first Muslim to head Amnesty International as Secretary General from 2001-2009.
Our next book, of which we’ll be discussing at our Nov.13 general meeting, is the The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander. This book was highly recommended to us at the Denver conference, and since we haven’t read a human rights book in a while, we are revamping the book club with the New Jim Crow. Below is a description:
“Jarvious Cotton’s great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Klu Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation; his father was barred by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole.”
As the United States celebrates the nation’s “triumph over race” with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status–much like their grandparents before them.
In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community–and all of us–to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.
If interested in participating in our book club, please read this book by Nov. 13, and join our discussion. We hope to see you there!