This title probably draws readers in, but how do I make them continue reading instead of just scrolling away? Usually, I just write whatever flows to my mind, but as I get more serious about writing, I want to employ a true writing style. To create an effective introduction, I must first analyze its components, from which I will draw on Michelle Alexander’s, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”. Many people have praised this book for its captivity and ability to engage many readers into a more profound discussion of racist rhetoric, so what better piece of literature to draw on?
Her very first paragraph is an anecdote that is written in choppy sentences. The anecdote itself showed just how related the Old Jim Crow is to the New Jim Crow. To me, the choppy sentences symbolize just how simple the concept is to understand…if one chooses to listen. She goes into more detail for those who don’t quite grasp the concept from the first paragraph, but then she connects it with a personal story. Alexander describes how she did not even understand the concept when it was presented to her, but how she had to learn and develop her own understanding by working around the system for a bit. This makes it more relatable for the reader…by “it”, I mean the notion of a continuously evolving system. Activists tend to reminisce about our “coming to social consciousness” journeys, and because this personal account of Alexander’s “coming to social consciousness” was laid out, we [activists] do not tend to feel as pressured to engage in competition with who became “woke” first. As this book was made for activists (among other communities) to read, it serves to remind us that social awakening is a process, not a one-stop-shop.
Alexander engages the reader after this by carefully slipping in her thesis: “Mass incarceration in the United States had, in fact, emerged as a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow.” This is only reached on page four, yet to me, this also signals the urgency of the issue. It is so forthright that the reader is left yearning for more because we want to see if she can handle and prove such bold accusations. Also, from the perspective of an activist, I agree with her statement, but before reading her argument, I did not know how to exactly lay out the argument for the opposition. I am much better prepared to relay the urgency of recognizing this problematic system after reading the facts that support this thesis. Page thirteen is where Alexander begins her persuasion that the reader has the capacity to address the issue by initiating a conversations around the language of caste. She compares this framework of language to that of Number 45. Most of the readers, I assume, can make the connection between the two because we have all been affected by it, and activists have been analyzing how Number 45 actually acquired the most coveted position of power. This shows the readers our own capacity to fight against the rhetoric of Number 45 by educating those brainwashed by it; if we understand it and can analyze it, we can expose its contradictions to society.
Although she calls into questions some activists’ way of fighting on the front line, what are we doing if we never question ourselves? Yes, it is imperative to be confident, but if we are too blinded by our confidence to keep ourselves challenged, there would be no such thing as learning. Without learning, the concept of improvement would have never been conceived. Some activists may interpret this as Alexander’s way of alienating them, but they could look at it as a way to draw closer to other activists for more support. To provide a holistic view of the problem without making it seem hard to solve, Alexander writes that the goal is to “cultivate an ethic of genuine care, compassion, and concern for ever human being — of every class, race, and nationality — within our nation’s borders” because if that does not happen, the collapse of mass incarceration will not equate to the death of racial caste in the United States. Basically, if we do not dismantle the system already in place, we will be stuck feeding it until we die. We, as activists, just have to find a way to squeeze the lemonade out of those lemons and ignite the revolution.