A Modern Understanding of a Long Ago Confession and a Boy’s Execution

A few miles off I-95, past acres of brown-and-white fields where blackbirds circle overhead, this small town in the heart of Deep South cotton country isn’t known for much. It has a post office and a few churches, some abandoned houses and some nicer ones, ramshackle trailers and cotton fields. After church on a recent Sunday there, George Frierson was scuffing a shiny black dress shoe across some gravel at a railroad crossing. Back when he was a kid the rail line split this tiny, rural town along racial lines. But for blacks like him growing up in Alcolu, the train tracks signified something even more sinister than segregation.

Delinquent by Reason of Poverty

With the publication of Michelle Alexander’s provocative book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” our attention has been drawn to the troubling reality that the majority of young African-American men living in our cities are either incarcerated or on probation or parole. As a result of the ill-conceived “War on Drugs,” our communities of color have been decimated, and a vast population has been left unemployable and disenfranchised. Professor Alexander powerfully demonstrates that America’s racial caste system did not end with the outlawing of state-sanctioned segregation but merely reconstituted itself. With the demise of Jim Crow, the criminal justice system now functions as our society’s system of racial control. Yet, there is an important piece of this picture that has been overlooked.

Q&A With New Jim Crow Author Michelle Alexander

JJIE and Youth Today Washington, D.C. correspondent Kaukab Jhumra Smith is in Cincinnati this week covering a conference sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund. Among the more than 3,000 people in attendance is legal scholar Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Smith managed to catch up with her to ask a few questions. JJIE: What do you think is the civil rights issue of our day? Alexander: I think the disposal of people who are viewed as “other,” defined along lines of race and class is a civil rights issue of the day.