Over 130,000 adults combined in Florida and North Carolina are banned from reading The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander’s award-winning book about the effects of mass incarceration, according to a report by The New York Times.
Earlier this month, the ACLU blasted New Jersey state prisons for what it said was an unconstitutional ban of the book. “That the very prisoners who experience the worst racial disparity in incarceration in the country should be prohibited from reading a book whose precise purpose is to examine and educate about that disparity adds insult to injury,” the ACLU said. Suddenly under fire, the New Jersey Department of Corrections quickly lifted the ban that very same day. But clearly, banning The New Jim Crow is a trend.
According to the Times, the Florida prison system’s literature review document reveals that the book is banned there because of “racial overtures.” In North Carolina, the reason cited is that the book is “likely to provoke confrontation between racial groups.”
The New Jim Crow details the ways in which the racial disparity of mass incarceration (black men are six times more likely to be imprisoned than white men) has allowed the country to continue to control and surveil people of color. That the book is banned is no accident. As Alexander told the Times, “Some prison officials are determined to keep the people they lock in cages as ignorant as possible about the racial, social and political forces that have made the United States the most punitive nation on earth. Perhaps they worry the truth might actually set the captives free.”
In The New Jim Crow Alexander writes, “As a criminal, you have scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow. We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” There is perhaps no better proof of this than the banning of her own book.