Do you ever wonder if many of us have been brainwashed into believing that impoverished Blacks, men in particular, are solely to blame for much of the problems we face as a community? Civil rights lawyer and scholar Michelle Alexander’s tireless research indicated just that, as well as a heartbreaking ton of additional facts that are outlined in her latest book, The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

In the midst of a thriving law career, Ms. Alexander described an awakening of sorts. Rather than remaining an agent of ‘the game,’ she followed her instinct which led her to detect a larger, more sinister modus operandi of the criminal justice system that looked a lot like Jim Crow for the new millennium. According to Alexander’s findings, many of the tenets of the Jim Crow regime of the not-so-distant past are now accepted as fully legal  – “felon disenfranchisement laws” as she coins it.

Last year we looked at the staggering statistic revealing that more African American adults are under correctional control (in prison, jail, probation or parole) today  than were enslaved in the 1850 – a decade before the Civil War began. Additionally, in 2004 more black men were disenfranchised than in the year 1870. Alexander explains with sobering clarity, that when it comes to the war on drugs & the mass incarceration of black men, the criminal “justice” system is creating an under caste – not to be mistaken with under class. A caste, as she illustrates, is defined as a group of people defined largely by race that are relegated to permanent second class status by law.

During a speech at Riverside Church in New York City, the civil rights activist exposed what she called the biggest myth about mass incarceration: It is not driven by crime rates. In her words, Our prison population quintupled in 30 yrs, from 350,000 to well over 2 mil for reasons that have little to do with crime or crime rates. Crime rates have fluctuated over the years while the prison population (especially African American) continues to soar… Crime and prison population rates move independently of each other.”

As a matter of fact, Alexander claimed emphatically that there are more people in prison today, just for drug convictions, than were incarcerated for all reasons in 1980. Drug convictions have increased by more than 1000% since the war on drugs began. Incidentally, this battle has been disproportionately fought in poor communities of color – although it’s a proven fact that black and brown folks are no more likely to use or sell drugs than any other group.

Apparently there are many benefits arresting youth of color. For one, as Alexander explained, “federal funds flow to those state & local law enforcement agencies that boost dramatically the sheer number of people swept into the system.” The emphasis is does not lie with bringing to justice king pins or violent offenders (quantity not quality). The ‘war on drugs’ won public support in large part due to a massive propaganda effort kicked off by the Regan Administration which developed a ‘task force’ to publicize/demonize early victims of the crack era such as “inner city” crack babies, crack dealers, crack whores & crack related violence “in the hopes of making crack a media sensation.” This act, Ms. Alexander said, provided the rationale for these agencies to receive millions of taxpayer funds to carry out the fight.

As her findings indicate a collage of misery, an interesting fact is uncovered that paints black men of this caste in a positive light:

Although a black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery she cited a study studies that have found that black fathers that have lived outside of the home (including formerly incarcerated dads), are more likely to be a part of their children’s lives more than any other group.

It’s not a new revelation. In fact, her claim (& that of Michael Eric Dyson) that contradicts the enduring stereotype of the absentee black father was published in the HuffPo 2 years ago – and expanded on in more than one of her enlightening lectures.

Bearing witness to endless debates on who’s to blame for the deterioration of the community, doesn’t it always seem to come down to black men (despite a national law enforcement presence which demonstrates a low regard for folks of color)? Can the work of scholars like Michelle Alexander have a positive effect how we perceive the most troubled in our community, or can we expect more of the same?

Dig Ms. Alexander at Harlem’s Riverside Church…

And on Democracy Now

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  • Tonton Michel

    Great research by Alexander and the author of this article for pointing this out. I am afraid that this will fall on deaf ears in a country that is now making money on the incarceration of POC. I hope the book includes solutions and a plan of attack against the justice system.

    • jamesfrmphilly

      it is the justice industry…….look at it that way and you will understand

    • Tonton Michel

      Your right it is no longer separate industries operating independently of each other, there all tied together. Law enforcement, justice system, prison system, and the law makers. All have created cycle where they profit off the incarceration of the poor and people of color. Its a four headed monster that feeds off what it sows.

  • Toppin (Formerly Known As Just Sayin’)

    Cut black men some slack??? How about cutting black men off completely!?!

    Stop coddling black men and HOLD them responsible for THEIR ACTIONS.

    It ain’t the white man. It ain’t the system. It IS them.

    I read this book some time ago and it was one of the most ridiculous books I’ve ever read.

    This author actually advocates for CRIMINALS as opposed to doing what the black community should have done a long time ago: abandon them in the criminal justice system.

    Black women like her make me sick.

    Then she goes on to say that these individuals should be able to get foodstamps and other benefits provided by TAXPAYERS.

    Let me get this straight: You break the law, become a convicted felon, ignore society’s social contract yet the taxpayers should pay for your groceries??? I think not.

    “Bearing witness to endless debates on who’s to blame for the deterioration of the community, doesn’t it always seem to come down to black men (despite a national law enforcement presence which demonstrates a low regard for folks of color)? “

    And doesn’t it always seem to be the truth!

    No doubt…the hoodrat population has played a part in this mess too, but let’s be real here…as someone who works in the criminal justice system…and someone who KNOWS most of the young men in the criminal justice system aren’t coming from a fatherless background (yes, it is true…at least here in Georgia…stop spreading the myth…as this article points out)…I can safely say black men’s poor leadership as men is what got the black community in this hole.

    These “men” aren’t out here trying to get drug dealers out of their community. Instead they BEFRIEND THEM! Protect them! If not for law enforcement, the law, the white man, whatever, black urban communities across this country would STILL be riddled by gang warfare, crack houses and crack cocaine.

    I’m here to tell you delusion people that the “war on drugs” was REAL and it was not a “war” on innocent people! It was a war on the filth taking up space in poor black communities. We should be HAPPY to get rid of these CRIMINALS.

    I mean what does it say when black boys WITH fathers are ending up in jail/prison? That is what I saw when I was working in corrections. And most of them weren’t in there for “small” non-violent crimes either.

    I blame black men for their destruction. Forgetting cutting them some slack…I say cut them off.

    • Toppin (Formerly Known As Just Sayin’)

      Last year we looked at the staggering statistic revealing that more African American adults are under correctional control (in prison, jail, probation or parole) today than were enslaved in the 1850 – a decade before the Civil War began.

      I just wonder…when people write/repeat the above statement do they ever think about the reality that there are MORE African American adults living in this country now than there were in 1850???

      With that said it makes perfectly good sense why there are more African Americans NOW under correctional control than there were enslaved in 1850.

      If I’m not mistaken, post civil war, there were only a little over 4 million black people in this country. It was probably a little less than that in 1850. Compare that to today with a population said to be a little over 40 million.

    • I got sense!

      You raised some very good points and I have to say that while I don’t believe we should cut black men off all together I definitely can’t cut them any slack either.

      As you pointed out, there are lots of people who had a two parent upbringing (married or not) and the kids still end up in jail. I think the main thing that people are forgetting is that it’s apart of life. Everyone can’t be CEO, everyone can’t be a business owner, everyone can’t go to college. And please understand when I say “can’t” I mean they don’t have the desire, determination, self discipline, and control to do it. Every has the opportunity and ability but not everyone wants to take it. I don’t feel sorry for them. They made their choice. 50 years ago I would have sympathy because we were still trying to get basic rights but today in 2012 with computers and the entire world at your fingertips there is NO EXCUSE! They can post videos on youtube of fights but can’t google after school program, library, community center, low income programs? Sure, they can but they don’t want to that. I know some will probably say it’s the parents fault. Kids aren’t going to choose to do that. WRONG! High school kids are planning for college and they are just as young and immature. Kids get on the internet and do some of the dumbest stuff. Use the same tool to google job, youth camps, etc. They know better they just don’t want to do it.

      Some people want to get money but don’t want to have to listen, follow rules, adhere to a hierarchy (meaning you have a supervisor you can’t talk to them any kind of way and be disrespectful), work their way up the ladder, pay dues, etc. They want it quick and fast. I know there are people in jail who genuinely got caught up, as in wrong place wrong time (I know a couple people who got locked up by just being in the same car as someone who had just robbed a lady and had no idea but was in the car when the police caught them), falsely accused and set up but the MAJORITY of black men in jail are in there because they broke the law. Whether someone chooses to have sympathy for them, cut them some slack or cut them off all together the facts remain the same. If you commit a crime you are going to jail/prison and in a society where black people but especially men are hated it seems to me that you would do the opposite of what they wanted you to do. Now they literally are slaves and are treated like animals. They voluntarily made themselves slaves of the system. No one caught them or sold them like our ancestors. It’s just that simple and these men knew this BEFORE they broke the law so they decided what future they wanted by the choices they made. I can’t have any sympathy for them.

    • lovelygirl

      Toppin, sad to say, but I agree with you. Of course, all bm are not a lost cause, but too many are. And too many arent trying to change. The black community has no protection. Our women and children are like sheep living in lions’ dens. Bw are the heads and it wasnt meant to be this way.

      Im not married to a bm and when asked by bm and bw why I explain, as tasteful as possible, that I was/am no longer attracted to bm because too many have criminal backgrounds; are baby daddies; or dont have the ability (mentally and/or financially) to properly raise a family. For my husband, being the provider, protector, and a MAN comes easy to him.

      As a teacher, I find that most troubled black boys do come from fatherless homes. With mothers who have given up. And I am a firm believer that mothers can not raise boys to men.

      Concerning this article, the book, I a gree with Toppin, she’s just another person who wants to shift the blame. Also like many of our black ”leaders” sigh

    • jamesfrmphilly

      you ladies are very sad. such self hate is a shame.

    • Toppin (Formerly Known As Just Sayin’)


      Self-hate my arse…this ish ain’t self-hate…It’s called common freakin sense.

      Go sit your old arse down somewhere old man. Everybody that’s black ain’t your friend!

    • Yulez

      @ lovelygirl, cosign 110%

    • QueenOfCastle


      Im going to assume you are a black woman. Somene gave you a chance in spite of too many black women being fat, single mothers, bad attitudes having hood rats, with tattoos on their neck. Why cant you judge the black man as an individual when the state of black women wasnt held against you? Be fair.

    • Dreaming

      The ‘self-hate’ argument is tired and lame!

    • lovelygirl


      I know that all bm arent dead weight. But too many are. Is it 50%, 35%, or 20%, I dont know. But too many arent being the men we need. Too many lack an education and the ability to maintain a family. I can also say too many bw have effed up, as well. Im not making this up. How am I not being fair? I made it clear that all are not screw ups

    • tisme

      @Toppin I have to thank you for your post.As someone who came from a predominantly black neighborhood and actually had to live there,unlike the people saying cut black criminals some slack,I thank you for being on the side of innocent black people.

      Many of us decent, non-violent, hardworking, going to school to get our educations, black people have been in a position where we could NOT afford to leave our communities for good due to an increase in crime and sometimes violence.

      The only people there to protect us were the police.
      The reason why the neighborhoods became so violent and crime ridden was due to people cutting black criminals some slack.

      There were hardworking good people who had men who were criminals in their families and they allowed those men to live with them trying to help them out and they brought crime and violence to our community as a result.

      People who have the luxury to live in communities where most of the people don’t commit crime and certainly not violent crime should NOTeven be allowed to speak on the issue in my opinion.

      Once those men are out of jail those men likely won’t be living in their neighborhood.

    • tisme

      We also cannot forget that black men do not return favors very often.There is no need to be anything but indifferent towards the majority of them because even if the black male criminal does rehabilitate it does not mean that he will be of benefit to black women in any beneficial way.

      I also think, as Queen of New Castle stated, that many black women have their own issues to overcome.I think the energies of black women would be best focused on bettering themselves and finding new allies and developing working relationships with people that matter.

    • iQgraphics

      if the majority of black children are raised in single parent (mother) households, whose to blame?

    • Anon

      Toppin’ I’m doing a holy dance right here right now. I just CAN’T with some of this. Bill Cosby was right about the poundcake. I wish more parents had taken note.

    • Anon

      “if the majority of black children are raised in single parent (mother) households, whose to blame?” —————-> In any FUNCTIONAL community, folks would look first for the father to protect and provide, so… take it for what you will.

    • QueenOfCastle


      Because it is arrogant as heck, thats why. For all the ills of black men, it isnt him on TV crying about not having a mate. Its black women. The ironic thing about you excluding black men from your dating pool because of stereotpes is that its black women who suffer the most exclusion- intra-racially and inter-racially. So get off your high horse.

    • QueenOfCastle


      “In any FUNCTIONAL community, folks would look first for the father to protect and provide, so… take it for what you will.”

      In a functional community women dont have kids by non husbands so…take it for what you will.

    • jamesfrmphilly

      the system of white supremacy hates all black people.

    • Anon

      AGAIN, NAMI is a wonderful organization dedicated to mental illness. I hope that you reach the point where pretending to be a woman is not your main source of crying out to the world.

    • Dreaming

      “The greatest benefit will be that there will no longer be any black children born out of wedlock.”

      You’re right. There will just be more biracial children born out-of-wedlock to Black fathers.

    • I got sense! for comment made at 10:19am

      I got your point, well said!

    • H

      I’m glad many of the repliers have sense. It’s the system rigged against us that is putting so many men of color in jail. *sarcasm* You know jail and welfare are not free. The man would be glad if we got it together. You all need to get off of that conspiracy. If you haven’t noticed, this country can’t afford to hold us down or rather support us. Taxpayer dollars go towards helping single mothers with food stamps. Housing is provided for low income mothers. Taxpayers have to pay for jail. White cops are the only reason these criminals don’t walk into your manless homes and take everything you have. Y’all need to wake up sometime soon.

      God I must have seen that self-hate comment at least 10 times in the past 2 days. That’s a shaming tactic that black people like to throw at other black people who confront them.

      I have no sympathy for non-productive members of society getting locked up black, white, male, or female. My parents didn’t cut slack for me when I did stupid stuff, and it worked. I grew up knowing there are consequences for bad behavior.

      She’s just another person cuttin’ the rug at the pity party.

    • ExpatInSwiss


      I agree. I have several male cousins who are incarcerated and/or have extensive criminal backgrounds. Some were raised in impoverished areas. Others in middle and upper middle class areas. They chose to quit school and commit crimes. While their mothers worked hard and tried desperately to change their behavior, while at the same time blaming police and teachers for their sons’ downfall.

      My family is a prime example of ”raise the daughters, love the sons.” Majority of the women are multiple degree holders, property owners, travel the world. Majority of the men are baby daddies, h.s dropouts, jailbirds. When I was in college, asking for money was like pulling teeth. Have one of the boys get locked out…money for lawyers and bail is available and plentiful. REALLY!!. And Im so sick of hearing the system is to blame. Yes, I do agree that blacks get harsher sentences and that their records spoil their future, but WE know this. So if you make the choice to commit the crime, you have to do the time. We all know that our boys have issues with education, violence, lack of family structure so why do we continue the cycle of productng fatherless homes, impoverishment, etc and expect the govt and others to play their part, but we dont make changes.

      Black women having been holding down the fort and asking out men to take care of us and our children. But at the same time many black women (those educated and otherwise), while crying, ”We need you,” continue to have children and financially take care of the same men who are causing the most harm to our community. Black women dont get a pass either.

    • LemonnLime

      I’m gonna have to agree with the other comments. While I know there have been drug policies created to incarnate blacks at a higher number and the justice “system” is thoroughly unfair, that doesn’t negate personal responsibility which seems to be some not just the black community but Americans have a problem with as well. Sure there are those in jail for being at the wrong place at the wrong time and that is very much an issue but let’s not pretend that the majority of these people being locked up did absolutely nothing.

      We ALL know how unfair the system is so why would you be stupid enough to take the chance of getting involved? I have no sympathy for those who know the odds are against and yet they proceed to break the law and endanger their communities all to make a quick buck. It you can post YT videos of fights or you rapping, you can look up jobs, scholarship programs, and other programs to allow you to grow in a productive manner. Both men and women need to take responsibility for the situations they the created for themselves. You sell drugs, you go to jail its real simple. I know poverty this or that. I just have hard time hearing that considering how many of us came from poor or lower income families living in a time where laws stated blacks were 3rd class citizens and some how they managed to overcome all of that so their kids and grandkids could reap the benefits. And we ALL know they had it much harder. I’m not cutting anyone slack or making excuses for anyone that doesnt choose to do better for him or herself.

    • Barbara2

      Based on my own family of what I see in both Georgia and Florida, your comments are so very TRUE.

  • Wow!

    Thank you Clutch for posting this. I will be picking up this book during my lunch break to day. Of course despite this ladies credentials someone nincompoop with motive other than healing and improvement of black people will try to debate the reality that is painted here. Great work expanding the discussion.

  • JoJo

    @ Toppin

    Well said!

  • apple

    These comments gone be good! *grabs popcorn and comes back in an hour*

    • @apple
      You better bring a helmet and Vaseline because it’s probably going to get ruff up in here too.