"We use the criminal justice system to label people of color as criminals and engage in all the practices we left behind."
As part of Skidmore's Committee on Intercultural and Global Understanding's event co-sponsored by OSDP, Raices, and Ujima, Michelle Alexander, a civil rights lawyer, came to present her acclaimed book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.
Michelle Alexander explained that the creation of this caste system became possible with the implementation of the "war on drugs." With the start of the war on drugs, not only selling but also possessing very minimal amounts of drugs, including marijuana, came to be considered a serious crime.
I found it ironic and frustrating that neighborhoods of people of color are being targeted in policing drug crime and so many young black Americans are labeled as felons, while here at Skidmore, which is a predominantly rich, white "community," prides itself in ranking first place in marijuana usage among college campuses in the United States. With the same actions, one group of people are considered criminals for their entire lives and the other group fully enjoys its privilege and does not feel any threat of going to jail.
Moreover, she talked about how the rate of police killing of black Americans is nearly the same as the rate of police lynching in the era of Jim Crow. Killing of black people by police officers occurs about twice a week or every three or four days for extremely small matters, such as playing loud music or stealing 75 cents.
This clearly shows that there is injustice in our society. Michelle Alexander urged us to actually mobilize in order to break this injustice: we need to make a radical shift in our consciousness and create movements for people of all color; we need to build an underground railroad that will end the war on drugs and end the racial caste system; and we need to be awakened from colorblindness.
After hearing Michelle Alexander's talk, I felt helpless and hopeless for this country. Knowing the reality of how injustice is so deeply rooted systemically and how it is easily tolerated, it was hard to see how there can be change. However, Michelle Alexander emphasized that we should not lose hope, and, as mentioned above, we should come together and fight against the injustice in this society. This means that we should start creating social movements against racial injustice that is present in our criminal justice system, in Ferguson, and in our daily lives at Skidmore.
- Do you want to read Michelle Alexander's book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness? The Scribner Library has a copy! Here is the call number so that you don't even need to look up for it. HV9950 .A437 2010. Also, stop by the Intercultural Lounge (ICL) to check out the OSDP library.
- Did you miss Michelle Alexander's talk and want to listen to her talk? There are plenty of her lectures on YouTube. (Thank you technology!) Click HERE to watch one of her talks.
- Do you want to know more about colorblindness? Click HERE to read a blog post about the subject.