|Intro||American lawyer, civil rights activist and writer|
|Is||Author Professor Educator Lawyer Activist Human rights activist|
|From||United States of America|
|Field||Academia Activism Law Literature|
|Birth||7 October 1967, USA|
Michelle Alexander (born October 7, 1967) is an associate professor of law at Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law, a civil rights advocate, and writer.
She is known for her 2010 book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.
Early life and education
Michelle Alexander was born on October 7, 1967. She is the daughter of Sandra Alexander, formerly of Ashland, Oregon, and the late John Alexander, originally from Evanston, Illinois. Her mother was the senior vice president of the ComNet Marketing Group in Medford, Oregon, which solicits donations for nonprofit organizations.
Her younger sister, Leslie Alexander, is a professor of African American Studies at Ohio State University and is the author of African or American?: Black Identity and Political Activism in New York City, 1784-1861.
Alexander graduated from Vanderbilt University, where she received a Truman Scholarship. She received a law degree from the Stanford Law School.
Alexander served for several years as director of the Racial Justice Project at the ACLU of Northern California, which spearheaded a national campaign against racial profiling by law enforcement. Alexander directed the Civil Rights Clinic at Stanford Law School and was a law clerk for Justice Harry Blackmun at the U. S. Supreme Court and for Chief Judge Abner Mikva on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. As an associate at Saperstein, Goldstein, Demchak & Baller, she specialized in plaintiff-side class action suits alleging race and gender discrimination.
Alexander now holds a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State.
Alexander has litigated numerous class action discrimination cases and worked on criminal justice reform issues.
She is a recipient of a 2005 Soros Justice Fellowship of the Open Society Institute.
In 2018, she was hired as an opinion columnist at The New York Times.
The New Jim Crow
Alexander published her first book *The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness *in 2010. In it, she argues that systemic racial discrimination in the United States has resumed following the Civil Rights Movement's gains; the resumption is embedded in the US War on Drugs and other governmental policies and is having devastating social consequences. She considers the scope and impact of this current law enforcement, legal and penal activity to be comparable with that of the Jim Crow laws of the 19th and 20th centuries. Her book concentrates on the mass incarceration of African-American men.
In The New Jim Crow, Alexander argues that mass incarceration in America functions as a system of racial control in a similar way to how Jim Crow once operated. Alexander writes, “Race plays a major role-indeed, a defining role – in the current system, but not because of what is commonly understood as old-fashioned, hostile bigotry. This system of control depends far more on racial indifference (defined as a lack of compassion and caring about race and racial groups) than racial hostility – a feature it actually shares with its predecessors.”
The New Jim Crow describes how she believes oppressed minorities are "subject to legalized discrimination in employment, housing, public benefits, and jury service, just as their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents once were". Alexander argues the harsh penalty of how "people whose only crime is drug addiction or possession of a small amount of drugs for recreational use find themselves locked out of the mainstream society--permanently--and also highlights the inequality presented from the fact that "blacks are admitted to prison on drug charges at a rate from twenty to fifty-seven times greater than that of white men". Alexander's The New Jim Crow analyzes some of the factors she argues contribute to the new and modified Jim Crow laws that reside in American society today.
In a 2012 interview, Alexander told the story of the origin of the book. Working on "Driving While Black" racial profiling in Oakland with the ACLU, a young African-American man came in with a well-documented case of most of a year of repeated stops by police with dates and names. Listening to his story, Alexander increasingly felt she had the test case for which she was looking. Then the man said in passing he had a felony drug conviction on his record and Alexander had to backtrack completely and finally: The conviction was an insurmountable obstacle to a test case in front of a jury for her at that time. In turn, the man then built a strong anger toward her, saying in effect "I'm innocent ...; it was just a plea bargain"; and that she "was no better than the police" and "You're crazy if you think you're going to find anyone here to challenge the police who is not already 'in the system'?"; he ended by stalking out, tearing up his notes as he went. The experience stuck with Alexander and eventually grew, prompted in part by more observations of events in Oakland, into the book. She has tried to find the young man again, in part to dedicate the book to him, but has so far been unable to.
The New Jim Crow was re-released in paperback in early 2012 and has received significant praise. As of March 2012 it had been on The New York Times Best Seller list for 6 weeks and it also reached number 1 on the Washington Post bestseller list in 2012. The book has also been the subject of scholarly debate and criticism.
Starting in the fall of 2015, all freshmen enrolled at Brown University have read The New Jim Crow as part of the campus's First Readings Program initiated by the Office of the Dean of the College and voted on by the faculty.
Yale University clinical law professor James Forman Jr., while acknowledging the many similarities and insights in using the Jim Crow analogy, has argued that Alexander overstates her case, and leaves out important ways in which the newer system of mass incarceration is different. In one paper, Forman Jr. identifies Alexander as one of a number of authors who have overstated and misstated their case. He observes that her framework over-emphasizes the War on Drugs and ignores violent crimes, asserting that Alexander's analysis is demographically simplistic.
Hidden Colors 2
Alexander appeared in Tariq Nasheed's documentary Hidden Colors 2: The Triumph of Melanin (released on December 6, 2012), where she discussed the impact of mass incarceration in melanoid communities. Alexander states: "Today there are more African American adults, under correctional control, in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850 a decade before the Civil War began.
Alexander wrote an essay in The Nation titled Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote, warning against what she regards as presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's history of supporting policies which have "decimated black America."
Alexander appeared in Ava DuVernay's 2016 documentary titled 13th (written by DuVernay and Spencer Averick). As a guest expert interviewee, Alexander described the evolution of racial disparity in the United States of America through its evolution from slavery, the Jim Crow laws, the War on Drugs, to mass incarceration. Alexander said, "So many aspects of the Old Jim Crow are suddenly legal again once you've been branded a felon. And so it seems that in America, we haven't so much ended racial caste but simply redesigned it".
Alexander married Carter Mitchell Stewart in 2002. Stewart at the time was a senior associate at McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, a San Francisco law firm, and later was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio. The couple has three children.
Her father-in-law is a former member of the board of directors of The New York Times.
In a 2019 opinion piece for The New York Times, written subsequent to the passing of the Ohio "Heartbeat Bill", Alexander wrote of being raped during her first semester of law school, becoming pregnant as a result, and then aborting the pregnancy.
- 2005 Soros Justice Fellowship of the Open Society Institute.
- 2016, 21st Annual Heinz Award in Public Policy
- 2017, The Ohio State University, Office of Diversity and Inclusion's Frank W. Hale Jr. Black Cultural Center's MLK Dreamer Award.
- Michelle Alexander appearances on C-SPAN.org.