Michelle Alexander Challenges Drug Policy’s Racial Undertones

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The New Jim Crow, Michelle AlexanderThe so-called war on drugs has been seen as a haphazard attack on first-time offenders, landing a countless number of Black men and women in jail over minor drug charges. With a new best-selling book from Ohio State University law professor Michelle Alexander, America is forced to look at the war on drugs as a possible war on Black America as well.

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In her book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” Professor Alexander examines a series of cases and other data that allege a possible link between the tough drug laws enacted during the Nixon era and the Ronald Reagan-led ’80s, which, according to Alexander, have done a great disservice to Black American citizens. In her book, Alexander asserts that almost one-third of Black men land in prison only to be released and relegated to second-class citizenship. The New York Times bestselling book also furthers the argument that the system is not favorable to African Americans.

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Some critics say Alexander’s book takes too broad a stroke at the idea that the drug war is an affront to civil rights gains for Blacks. In fact, the New York Times reports that Yale Professor of Law James Forman Jr. intends to write a countering article for New York University Law Review set for release next month. Forman’s thought is that drug offenders only make up 25 percent of the entire prison population and feels that there is little mention in Alexander’s book about what violent offender numbers look like.

Whatever the case, Alexander’s book has created a necessary debate on how drug law enforcement has allegedly targeted Blacks and Hispanics, forcing the greater public to consider why these groups continue to swell in prisons across the nation.

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