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Opening The Curtain Behind Mass Incarceration

by Sophia Contreras 

Michelle Alexander—activist, author, professor of law and former American Civil Liberties Union attorney—will make her way to Central Connecticut State University to discuss her nationally recognized book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”

Hosted by CCSU’s Student Activities Leadership and Development department, the talk will discuss Alexander’s book and the issues surrounding race in the United States.

Alexander’s book discusses the racial caste system in America, exploring how the legal system enforces a new caste system that targets minorities—predominately colored men—despite the abolishment of slavery and Jim Crow laws. Alexander refers to this new system as “the new Jim Crow.”

Still, Alexander claims her main purpose when writing the book was for it to be a learning tool for young students.

“If we don’t pull back the curtain for young people and help them to see how unconscious bias operates [and] how systems of discrimination operate, then they will continue to operate on a false belief that racial discrimination is a part of our past and not our present. They will find themselves being part of the problem rather than part of the solution,” Alexander said in an interview.

The first 100 pages of Alexander’s book explain the same injustices in different forms and with repetition, citing different examples. For a person who is just learning about the system, the repetitiveness of these pages might be useful in order to understand all aspects of injustices that Alexander describes.

Alexander stated that she hopes that by the nation reading her book and her touring the country promoting her ideas, people will open their eyes to the brokenness of the U.S. legal system and will want to invoke change in their own communities.

Some of the points that I think will be interesting for Alexander to address are regarding former President Barack Obama’s failure to recognize and mend some of the racial issues America still faces today. Alexander briefly addresses some of these issues in the book, but hearing a more elaborate explanation might give more clarity as to why these issues are unable to be fixed just by a counter law.
This conversation with Alexander will ultimately be beneficial for students on both sides of the political spectrum, as it will help them gain a better perspective of the situations she mentions in her book. The event will also provide a safe public atmosphere for these conversations to take place. I believe this will inspire Central students to be brave enough to stand up for the topics they are passionate about, just as Alexander has done in her book.

More than anything, this event is especially beneficial to students studying criminal justice or social work, as Alexander’s book examines how careers in those particular fields impact our legal system, and how, as an employee in those fields, a person has the power to do something to change the lives of the people they encounter.

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