You are here

The Abandonment: Reflections on James Foreman’s "Locking Up Our Own"

By: 
by Paul Street

James Forman’s new book is indispensable “for those who want to get the whole story on the rise of the “the New Jim Crow.” The Black middle and upper classes, which have been largely exempt from the mass Black incarceration regime, “actively participated in the rise of the racist mass incarceration and felony-branding system.” Blacks demanded both crackdowns on crime and a Marshall Plan for Black America – but got only tough crime laws.

Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow is properly understood as a classic text on and against the regime of racist mass incarceration and criminal- (felony-) marking that arose and became deeply entrenched in the United States during the last third of the previous century. There were three key problems, however, with professor Alexander’s use of the term “Jim Crow” to describe that terrible system, even with the qualifier “new.”

The first difficulty is that the real historical Jim Crow regime of the late 19th and early 20th century was specific to the South whereas the contemporary racist mass incarceration and criminal branding regime is nationwide.