2. Michelle Alexander

Michelle Alexander wrote The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, which has been seminal in classrooms and living rooms across America, breaking down the devastating prison system that puts disproportionate percentages of black and Latino men behind bars. Alexander examines how this can happen while many believe we live in a post-racial society. She states, “When we think of racism we think of Governor Wallace of Alabama blocking the schoolhouse door; we think of water hoses, lynchings, racial epithets, and ‘whites only’ signs. These images make it easy to forget that many wonderful, goodhearted white people who were generous to others, respectful of their neighbors, and even kind to their black maids, gardeners, or shoe shiners—and wished them well—nevertheless went to the polls and voted for racial segregation . . . Our understanding of racism is therefore shaped by the most extreme expressions of individual bigotry, not by the way in which it functions naturally, almost invisibly (and sometimes with genuinely benign intent), when it is embedded in the structure of a social system.”

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