Instaread summary of The New Jim Crow Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Five of five stars
In general, I found the material in this summary taken from the book to be accurate, interesting and socially significant. However, there was one area that I disagree with and that is the subject of key takeaway number 1.
The title of the takeaway is “America’s racial caste system originated from the machinations of wealthy landowners in the colonial period prior to US independence in 1776.” This is an incredible simplification, first and foremost, slavery is an institution that existed for thousands of years before the American nation was created. Secondly, slavery was installed as a social system in the American Colonies because of the need for skilled and unskilled labor. Prior to the arrival of the first Africans sold into slavery, the prime, cheap labor force was indentured servants. People whose passage was paid to the Americas in exchange for a contract to work for a certain number of years.
Once land was cleared for growing valuable cash crops such as tobacco and cotton, the demand for labor rose so fast that the indentured servant program could not satisfy it. Furthermore, farm work required no skills other than a strong back, so an illiterate black person plucked from Africa could do it. Slavery did not exist in the northern American colonies primarily because it made no economic sense, not as a consequence of noble principles.
The remaining key takeaways are all common knowledge that has become a major issue in the current American presidential campaign. No country, even some considered totalitarian police states, incarcerates more people than the United States. It is an issue that has an identifiable cause (War on Drugs) and has led to a new form of de facto segregation.
With the exception of the first point, this summary is a solid synopsis of a critical issue in the United States. Reading it convinced me that the book is a valuable addition to the debate over this problem.
This book was made available for free for review purposes.