Race & Caste in the U.S.
A string of shootings of young African Americans has generated national and international attention. While these killings are nothing new, the proliferation of cell phones, cameras and social media has raised public awareness of police brutality. Systemic questions are being asked. What is the role of racism? The numbers are depressingly familiar. The United States has the largest prison population in the world. Blacks are more likely to go to jail than to college. The Sentencing Project reports, “Once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences.” Outside the prison walls is an economy that cannot generate jobs paying decent wages. Affordable housing? What’s that? Programs alleviating poverty are cut back and simultaneously the coercive functions of the state are beefed up. Local police are armed to the teeth with the latest weapons while underfunded schools are crumbling.
Michelle Alexander is a professor of law at Ohio State University and holds a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. Formerly the director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Project in Northern California, she served as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun. She is the author of the bestseller The New Jim Crow.