I am not one to read books like THE NEW JIM CROW. Though I bought it randomly from a peace and justice store in Vermont, I am so glad I did. The author Michelle Alexander reveals the truth about our criminal justice system and the new underclass of former inmates it creates. The image it presents is disheartening and horrific.
In fact, I include my readings and thoughts in this blog because it feels too much like 1984. We are spiraling into a kind of totalitarian regime that hides behind the façade of democracy. In reality we live in an age mass surveillance, a racial caste system, and plutocracy.
The book argues that the colored males that are thrown in jail for minor drug offenses are released with as little rights as blacks used to have during Jim Crow. They can’t vote and have few housing opportunities. The strangest part about the situation in which we live is that the reports about riots in Baltimore exclude any mention of the bigger problem- a criminal justice system that has become militant in its tactics to the point of violating civil liberties. An op-ed article from the NY Times discusses how harsh drug laws are.
The movements and protests that have sprung from police brutality have lacked focus. This, in my opinion, is what they should be striving for- change in drug laws like the three-strike policy in California. If we fail to act, we risk have a generation of men with felony records with no hope for the future. Either we reform drug laws or we provide leniency, even pardon for those that have nonviolent drug crimes.
What I observe in today’s society- a highly militarized police that does what it wants, an obscure government that relies on the faltering journalism industry, and surveillance that goes beyond just national security. But what makes these horrors even worse is our lack of understanding about who or how these laws are coming into place. Maybe we are the ones to blames for not holding the legislators more accountable for the mayhem they are creating. I am as guilty of it as anyone else.
As we see more and more protests about police brutality, we must discuss the much larger issue- we are leaving a chunk of the American public with no hope of the future. Ignoring the problem will only result in more violent protests.