Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center

Levitt Center
315-859-4451 or 315-859-4894

The Levitt Center is located in Kirner-Johnson 251.

Levitt Speaker Series

Michelle Alexander: "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness"

By Grace Fulop '16

On April 17, Michelle Alexander delivered a lecture on mass incarceration, the subject of her bestselling book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, sponsored by The Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center, the Chief Diversity Officer, and the Days-Massolo Center. Alexander, who is Associate Professor of Law at Ohio State University, argued that the current state of mass incarceration in the United States is proof that we have turned back the clock on racial progress as a nation. She cited a personal encounter with a young black man who was convicted of a drug felony even though he was innocent as the point where her eyes were finally opened to the broader system of injustice and racism in place across the United States. According to Alexander, the black youth of America are set up to go through the “cradle to grave” cycle as they are targeted to go to prison and then permanently branded as second class citizens for the rest of their lives. She believes that this system has many roots in the War on Drugs’ “get touch” approach to criminal justice, which disproportionately targets poor minorities, even though white youth are more likely to deal drugs than black youth are. Despite the challenges posed by the current state of affairs, Alexander remains optimistic for change. She calls for an awakening of the American public and the creation of a major social movement. She argues that the system can’t simply “fade away,” but that we need to do the hard work of movement building, including the creation of a new kind of Underground Railroad where the dignity and humanity of all people are taken seriously. She challenges the United States to awaken from their “colorblind slumber” and engage in a multiracial, multiethnic movement compassion and justice.