Jim Crow laws are historically known to be based on pure discrimination and racial segregation. Although they came to an end when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed, their propagation has been undertaken in the Justice System of the US. This is where Alexander derives the name of her book ‘The New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness.’ The title of the book and its thematic areas are given a lot of weight in the first chapter. In this chapter, Alexander gives a chronological explanation of how racism, discrimination, and inequality came to be. She centers slavery, social discrimination, and other inhumane acts that were undertaken in the name of ‘race.’ It is in this first chapter that she reviews the evolution of civil rights movements and other humanitarian organizations. She lays a foundation for her audience so that they have a solid understanding of the pertinent issues she covers in her book.
From the early 19th Century, Alexander peruses through all the major steps and events that Blacks undertook to get closer to an equitable America. She looks at the activist works of notable figures and other socio-economic aspects like employment and the distribution of social amenities. It is in this first chapter that she finally arrives at the ‘War on Drugs’ subject of 1982. Reagan was the president at that time. The 1980s is historically one of the most dynamic and eventful centuries. It is from this ‘War on Drugs’ that the concept of ‘mass incarceration’ is introduced. She paints a picture of how certain law enforcement agencies were involved in drug trafficking and the elevation of the vice. Sadly, these drugs were traded in the predominantly Black communities.
It is from this war on drugs that the Justice System of the US begun using incarceration as an ethnic discrimination tool. Ranging from drug trafficking to other crimes, the incarceration started developing a pattern of being racially biased. It got to a point where some analysts felt that the war on drugs was a government-instigated phenomenon aimed at orchestrating one of the greatest genocides on Blacks. It is important to read this chapter because it lays the foundation for the readers so that they can have a ‘virtual feel’ of the thematic subjects explored in the book. The drugs theme is very crucial in Alexander’s book. It is from this theme that she bases many of her discussions. This theme is introduced in this first chapter. This the theme that readers should take from this chapter.
Alexander’s book is undoubtedly a great piece of writing. With the multidimensional approach that she uses to explore her theme, she is successfully able to propagate her ideas and ideologies to her readers. It is true that the US is still lagging behind when it comes to ethnic equality. Despite the significant progress that has been made in the last two centuries, the US still remains many strides away from being the epitome of an ethnically integrated country. Therefore, by identifying and exploring the modern forms through which inequality is being undertaken in the US, Alexander is able to both prove her point and bring to light important societal issue.
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