Michelle Alexander


Last night, I went to the Michelle Alexander talk about the “New Jim Crow.” I found her talk really interesting and learned something totally new. Previously, I had known about the mass incarceration of African Americans, but never really knew the extent of the issue.  Ms. Alexander made a good point that the African Americans that are profiled and sent to jail are incarcerated for the most minute of offenses. And since they then have a criminal record, they are completely held back from participating in society. I actually think that this is detrimental to society as a whole. The amount of talent that is being held back by meaningless incarceration must be astounding. I think that our country’s police force is way too driven by personal reasons to arrest people. I wonder where our society would be today if this were not such a prevalent issue.

On the other hand, however, I am very curious about Ms. Alexander’s credentials. I know that her academic credentials are impressive, but I know nothing about her background. Where did she grow up? She mentioned that she turned a blind eye to mass incarceration until semi-recently. So, I wonder if she is from a well-off family, or if she grew up with white relatives. I couldn’t really tell how much bias was in her case.

I also wish that she would have given more statistics. Obviously this “punitive impulse” is a tragedy and needs to be addressed, but I am a person that likes hard-core facts and I thought that her argument was missing some statistics. She presented a few compelling facts in the beginning but I was eager to hear more. The movement that Ms. Alexander wants to be picked up is a very compelling one but I feel that she would win more people over to her cause if she had given more “shocking” facts. An emotional story is great and heart-wrenching but I would have loved more information about her and the possibly unbiased reality of mass incarceration in America.

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4 responses to “Michelle Alexander

  1. I unfortunately could not make this talk, but from what you write, it seems like it was very interesting. To go off of the idea of meaningless incarceration, there is a reason for it. Apart from some level of racism, private prison companies get paid more if their jail is full. You can see the conflict of interest! I also liked how you question her credentials; after our discussion about Mike Daisey, we need to be wary of what people say.

  2. I’m right there with you when it comes to the statistics. For me, it’s hard to believe any story or case without, as you said, ”hard-core facts”. It’s very easy to have an opinion or strong belief about something, but it’s another to be able to back them up with facts and statistics. Yes, I do agree on the other hand that the government/justice system does make a fair amount of money from all of these arrests. I would be curious to know an actual number with regards to that. Exactly how much money to they make from incarcerations. This again leads to the need for hard facts.

  3. Unfortunately I was unable to go to this speaker, but I am really glad that you chose to write about it. From what I hear in the news, I must, to an extent, agree with your statement about how our country’s police force can seem to be driven by personal reasons. However, growing up in a small town in Connecticut, I cannot say that I have experienced any of this first hand. But the main thing that I liked about your blog was that you were willing to question her credibility. As you stated, she has a lot of academic background. But you questioned whether there was a certain degree of bias to her story. After our blog experiences these past few weeks regarding Daisey, It was very intelligent of you to recognize that there weren’t many statistics in her presentation. As most people were enraptured by the style which Daisey told his story, I would be very curious to hear about the tone that she presented in.

  4. I don’t think there’s any doubt that many police officers enforce the law based on personal reasons. This is an issue that has raged for years, and I don’t think there has ever been a sufficient investigation into these issues. Hopefully it is addressed in the near future

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