Updated: Nov 13, 2019
As we approach the Dr. MLK Jr. national holiday on Monday, consider below a text message that I shared with family and friends earlier this week to provide a very rough and imprecise summary of some lessons from Michelle Alexander’s highly acclaimed book, The New Jim Crow (2012). In this book, Alexander describes in unflattering but thorough detail how racism in America is not a relic of our past, but a continuing stain on our national character with continuing pernicious effects in our criminal justice system. If you have not already done so, I urge you to make reading this book and incorporating its lessons into a plan of action that would truly honor Dr. King’s unfinished pursuit of “equal justice for all":
“First action step is raising awareness to obtain bipartisan support for reform. Here is some historical context on why we should show mercy to ex "felons": Racism in this culture that prides itself on being "colorblind", is still raging and hitting descendants of former slaves in harsh and either unknown or unspoken ways? In 2013-2014, roughly 745,000 black men in jail plus another 1.5 million on probation or parole were being denied full citizenship--voting, being jurors, working...Much of this was made possible with the "War on Drugs" that Americans (Republicans and Democrats) were duped into supporting in the 1980s where blacks were targeted in ghettos for using drugs (crack, blow) on streets while whites were able to use purportedly "less addictive" drugs (powder cocaine, pot, heroin, LSD, etc.) without being targeted by police inside suburban homes or fraternity houses; then heavily prosecuted with maximum felony charges (crack use subjected to sentences for possession at 1/100th amount necessary for those sentenced for powder cocaine use) while whites were given alternative dispositions or charged with crimes carrying much lighter sentences; sentenced as felons with mandatory minimum sentencing; and then paroled after most of their youth was spent incarcerated with a lifetime of second-class citizenship, incl. no rights to vote, serve or juries or get good jobs (most employers which won't hire ex-felons and so they have a non-racist reason for not hiring over 1.5 million black men on parole).... but since their using drugs, not their race, was the purportedly the basis for their punishment, most Americans do not think of the War on Drugs as "racist". But in 1996 for 15 states, 70-90% of all those jailed for drug offenses were black. But research shows that blacks actually use illegal drugs at rates much lower--1/7x-than whites...why else are blacks SO disproportionately arrested, prosecuted, sentenced and incarcerated for nonviolent drug crimes?” (c) DEI Facilitation & Consulting 2019
Contact DEI Facilitation & Consulting (386 473 1336) to discuss how Mr. Small can utilize The New Jim Crow as a framework for facilitating honest dialogue, mutual understanding and a basis for true collaboration between stakeholders in your organization.