Race relations, book examined in discussion

Published: September 20th, 2010

Category: Events, News, Students

Students, faculty and community members discuss race relations and Michelle Alexander's new book. (Photo by Joey Springer)

Students, faculty and community members discuss race relations and Michelle Alexander's new book. (Photo by Joey Springer)

Students, faculty and community members came together for a book discussion on Wednesday, Sept. 15, in anticipation of legal scholar and Ohio State University Moritz College of Law Professor Michelle Alexander’s upcoming visit.

The discussion focused on Alexander’s new book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” which is the topic of Alexander’s lecture Wednesday, Sept. 22, at noon in the UF Law’s Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom.

The book examines the current state of race and racial justice in the United States, stating that the racial caste system that existed during the pre-civil rights era is still in place, it has just been redesigned.

Alexander points out that even though the U.S. has elected its first black president, many young black men remain disadvantaged in major U.S. cities because they are labeled as felons or are already behind bars. The criminal justice system – while maintaining an outward stance of colorblindness – serves as a modern means of racial control, according to the book.

Katheryn Russell-Brown, Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations, and Nancy Dowd, Director of the Center on Children and Families, organized the event with the goal of having “informed conversations about these important topics,” Brown said.

“We, as faculty, are no more knowledgeable or insightful than you, as students,” Dowd said. “We are all trying to find our way together in examining these important issues. It was a profound experience to read this book.”

At the book discussion, Adessa Barker, 3L, noted the differences between the new and old Jim Crow. “It’s subtle. Once you get the stamp of ‘convict,’ it affects your whole life, and puts your family into a downward spiral.”

The New Jim Crow calls for a reevaluation of the current system and seeks to bring the issue of mass incarceration to the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in the U.S.

The discussion is sponsored by the Center on Children and Families and the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations. The event is free and open to the public.

About Michelle Alexander:
Alexander joined the OSU faculty in 2005 where she holds a joint appointment with the Moritz College of Law and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. Prior to joining the OSU faculty, she was a member of the Stanford Law School faculty, where she served as Director of the Civil Rights Clinic. Alexander has significant experience in the field of civil rights advocacy and litigation. She has litigated civil rights cases in private practice, as well as engaged in innovative litigation and advocacy efforts in the non-profit sector. For several years, Alexander served as the director of the Racial Justice Project for the ACLU of Northern California, which spearheaded a national campaign against racial profiling by law enforcement. While an associate at Saperstein, Goldstein, Demchak & Baller, she specialized in plaintiff-side class action suits alleging race and gender discrimination. Alexander is a graduate of Stanford Law School and Vanderbilt University. Following law school, she clerked for Justice Harry A. Blackmun on the United States Supreme Court and for Chief Judge Abner Mikva on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.