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New Jim Crow - discussion queries

by Deb Wood last modified Feb 14, 2016 07:01 PM

A New Moral Consensus

In Where Do We Go from Here (1967) Martin Luther King Jr, wrote:

Let us not be misled by those who argue that segregation cannot be ended by the force of law. But acknowledging this, we must admit that the ultimate solution to the race problem lies in the willingness of men to obey the unenforceable. Court orders and federal enforcement agencies are of inestimable value in achieving desegregation, but desegregation is only a partial, though necessary step toward the final goal which we seek to realize, genuine intergroup and interpersonal living. Desegregation will break down the legal barriers and bring men together physically, but something must touch the hearts and souls of men so that they will come together spiritually because it is natural and right. A vigorous enforcement of civil rights laws will bring an end to segregated public facilities which are barriers to a truly desegregated society, but it cannot bring an end to fears, prejudice, pride, and irrationality, which are the barriers to a truly integrated society. Those dark and demonic responses will be removed only as men are possessed by the invisible, inner law which etches on their hearts the conviction that all men are brothers and love is mankind’s most potent weapon for personal and social transformation. True integration will be achieved by true neighbors who are willingly obedient to unenforceable obligations.


Embedded in The New Jim Crow’s call for a broad-based, human rights movement on behalf of poor people of all colors is the call for the forging of a “new moral consensus.” What moral consensus, what “unenforceable obligations,” do you think ought to be at the heart of the movement to end mass incarceration and the cycle of caste in the United States? What core values and commitments should drive the movement’s work and exemplify its character?

Areas of Work

In her speeches, Alexander identifies three, interrelated, equally important areas of work:

1)    consciousness raising so that an awakening within communities of all colors can begin;

2)    building an “underground railroad” that will provide support to all those directly impacted by the system;

3)    organizing for abolition of the system of mass incarceration as a whole, including advocacy to end the drug war, to end discrimination against people branded criminals, and to shift from a purely punitive approach to dealing with violence and violent crime to a more rehabilitative and restorative one. Do you agree with these priorities? What areas of work are missing from the list?

International Dimension

Recalling section one’s discussion of those issues and groups excluded from the book’s analysis, as we consider the building up of a movement to end mass incarceration, which necessitates ending the War on Drugs, let us consider the international nature of the struggle. To what extent is the movement we are attempting to build linked to movements in other countries? Unspeakable suffering is occurring, for example across the border in Mexico, where the War on Drugs has become a very literal war. Between 2006 and 2012 more than sixty thousand people were killed and twenty thousand were disappeared in Mexico. As with modern warfare in general, the vast majority of these drug war victims were unarmed civilians. Most of the weapons used to inflict the continuing, brutal violence in Mexico flows north-to-south from the United States. Meanwhile, the overwhelming demand for drugs in the United States creates the enormous cash-flow that fuels the constant south-to-north flow of drugs from Mexico, which leaves this horrific violence and death in its wake. Isn’t the struggle to end mass incarceration in the United States connected to the struggle and suffering of our brothers and sisters in Mexico and elsewhere throughout the world? Should we make it a movement priority to demonstrate solidarity with people engaged in similar struggles around the world? What might that look like?


Israeli companies training US police


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