This from a reader:
I thank the reader for his kind words and I find it gratifying that letters like his roll in at regular intervals, suggesting to me that my pro bono efforts are of some value.
I have been a fan of your blog for a long time. In fact you helped to establish my first wary steps into the discipline of philosophy. I struggled through your entries, persistent and confused, ultimately rewarded for my efforts. Your scathing, surly, incisive political commentary is a great alternative to my usual news consumption habits. Now, I admit that I am left-leaning, and so your perspective is refreshing. I understand that you have a particular interest, but your motto, "Study everything, join nothing," as led me to believe that you might approach my book suggestion with an open mind: "The New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness." Alas, the title is sensational but the information and research seems solid. I suggest the work in hopes that you might begin a running critique or dialogue upon the subject.
If I were to find the book the reader suggests at the local library I would check it out and read at least portions of it. But I am not inclined to go out of my way to acquire it based on the following description from the Amazon page which I quote verbatim:
"Jarvious Cotton's great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Klu Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation; his father was barred by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole."
As the United States celebrates the nation's "triumph over race" with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status--much like their grandparents before them.
In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community--and all of us--to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.
Before commenting on the above description, let me say that, first of all, like many conservatives, I didn't start out as one. My background is working class, my parents were Democrats and so was I until the age of 41. I came of age in the '60s. One of my heroes was JFK, "the intrepid skipper of the PT 109" as I destribed him in a school essay. I was all for the Civil Rights movement. Musically my heroes were Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. I thrilled to "Blowin' in the Wind" and other Civil Rights anthems. As I see it, those civil rights battles were fought and they were won. But then the rot set in as the the party of JFK liberals became the extremists and the leftists that they are today. For example, Affirmative Action in its original sense gave way to reverse discrimination, race-norming, minority set-asides, identity politics and the betrayal of Martin Luther King's dream that people be judged "not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." As liberals have become extremists, people with moderate views such as myself have become conservatives. These days I am a registered Independent.
Now let's consider the first paragraph of the above description. Mention is made of one Jarvious Cotton. His mugshot is to the left. This dude was convicted of two offenses, homicide/murder and armed robbery. According to Michelle Alexander, author of the book in question, Cotton "has been labeled a felon."
So he was merely labeled a felon but is not a felon? Or was the label properly applied? Alexander is suggesting the former. The suggestion, from the context of the first paragraph, is that blacks get 'labeled' felons to prevent them from voting.
But that is absurd. Apart from the occasional wrongful conviction, blacks who are labeled felons are correctly so-labeled because they have committed felonies. Now should felons have the right to vote? Of course not. First of all, if you commit a felony, that shows you are pretty stupid: you don't know your own long-term best self-interest. It shows that you have terrible judgment. Murder and armed robbery are not elements in a life well-lived. A person like that should not be given a say on matters of public concern. That should be obvious. Second, part of the punishment for being a felon is removal of the right to vote.
No one is interested in disenfranchising blacks by 'labeling' them felons, but some blacks disenfranchise themselves by committing felonies.
There is also the misuse of language in the title of the book. The New Jim Crow? Nonsense. Jim Crow is a thing of the past.
Does the U. S. criminal justice system "target black men" and "decimate communities of color"? Is Atty Gen'l Eric Holder -- who is black -- in on this too? What motive could they have? The antecedent likelihood of this claim is so low that I cannot take it seriously. It is on a level with the wild claims of the 9/11 'truthers' and the allegation that the CIA in the '80s dumped cocaine into South Central Los Angeles.