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          size="-2"><a class="domain reader-domain"
href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/17/opinion/sunday/michelle-alexander-new-jim-crow.html">https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/17/opinion/sunday/michelle-alexander-new-jim-crow.html</a></font>
        <h1 class="reader-title">The Injustice of This Moment Is Not an
          ‘Aberration’</h1>
        <div class="credits reader-credits">By Michelle Alexander -
          January 17, 2020<br>
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                  <p id="article-summary">From mass incarceration to
                    mass deportation, our nation remains in deep denial.</p>
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                            alt="Protesters in Baltimore in the
                            aftermath of Freddie Gray&rsquo;s death
                            in 2015. Mr. Gray suffered a fatal spinal
                            cord injury while in police custody."
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                        <figcaption itemprop="caption description"><span
                            aria-hidden="true">Protesters in Baltimore
                            in the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death in
                            2015. Mr. Gray suffered a fatal spinal cord
                            injury while in police custody.</span><span
                            itemprop="copyrightHolder"><span>Credit...</span><span><span>Yunghi
                                Kim/Contact Press Images</span></span></span></figcaption></figure>
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                    <p>Ten years have passed since my book, “The New Jim
                      Crow,” was published. I wrote it to challenge our
                      nation to reckon with the recurring cycles of
                      racial reform, retrenchment and rebirth of
                      caste-like systems that have defined our racial
                      history since slavery. It has been an astonishing
                      decade. Everything and nothing has changed.</p>
                    <p>When I was researching and writing the book,
                      Barack Obama had not yet been elected president of
                      the United States. I was in disbelief that our
                      country would actually elect a black man to be the
                      leader of the so-called free world. As the
                      election approached, I felt an odd sense of hope
                      and dread. I hoped against all reason that we
                      would actually do it. But I also knew that, if we
                      did, there would be a price to pay.</p>
                    <p>Everything I knew through experience and study
                      told me that we as a nation did not fully
                      understand the nature of the moment we were in. We
                      had recently birthed another caste system — a
                      system of mass incarceration — that locked
                      millions of poor people and people of color in
                      literal and virtual cages.</p>
                    <p>Our nation’s prison and jail population had
                      quintupled in 30 years, leaving us with the <a
                        href="https://www.prisonpolicy.org/scans/wppl-8th_41.pdf"
                        title="" rel="noopener noreferrer"
                        target="_blank">highest</a> incarceration rate
                      in the world. A third of black men had <a
                        href="https://www.sentencingproject.org/news/5593/"
                        title="" rel="noopener noreferrer"
                        target="_blank">felony records</a> — due in
                      large part to a racially biased, brutal drug war —
                      and were relegated to a permanent second-class
                      status. Tens of millions of people in the United
                      States had been stripped of basic civil and human
                      rights, including the right to vote, the right to
                      serve on juries and the right to be free of legal
                      discrimination in employment, housing, education
                      and basic public benefits.</p>
                  </div>
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                  <p>Nevertheless, our nation remained in deep denial
                    that a new caste system even existed, and most of us
                    — even those who cared deeply about racial justice —
                    did not seem to understand that powerful racial
                    dynamics and political forces were at play that made
                    much of our racial progress illusory. We had not
                    faced our racial history and could not tell the
                    truth about our racial present, yet growing numbers
                    of Americans wanted to elect a black president and
                    leap into a “colorblind” future.</p>
                </div>
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                  <div>
                    <p>I was right to worry about the aftermath of
                      Obama’s election. After he was inaugurated, our
                      nation was awash in “post-racialism.” Black
                      History Month events revolved around “how far
                      we’ve come.” Many in the black community and
                      beyond felt that, if Obama could win the
                      presidency, anything was possible. Few people
                      wanted to hear the message I felt desperate to
                      convey: Despite appearances, our nation remains
                      trapped in a cycle of racial reform, backlash and
                      re-formation of systems of racial and social
                      control.</p>
                    <p>Things have changed since then. Donald Trump is
                      president of the United States. For many, this
                      feels like whiplash. After eight years of Barack
                      Obama — a man who embraced the rhetoric (though
                      not the politics) of the civil rights movement —
                      we now have a president who embraces the rhetoric
                      and the politics of white nationalism. This is a
                      president who openly stokes racial animosity and
                      even racial violence, who praises dictators (and
                      likely aspires to be one), who behaves like a
                      petulant toddler on Twitter, and who has a
                      passionate, devoted following of millions of
                      people who proudly say they want to “make America
                      great again” by taking us back to a time that
                      we’ve left behind.</p>
                  </div>
                </div>
                <div>
                  <p>We are now living in an era not of post-racialism
                    but of unabashed racialism, a time when many white
                    Americans feel free to speak openly of their
                    nostalgia for an age when their cultural, political
                    and economic dominance could be taken for granted —
                    no apologies required. Racial bigotry, fearmongering
                    and scapegoating are no longer subterranean in our
                    political discourse; the dog whistles have been
                    replaced by bullhorns. White nationalist movements
                    are operating openly online and in many of our
                    communities; they’re celebrating mass killings and
                    recruiting thousands into their ranks.</p>
                </div>
                <div>
                  <div>
                    <p>White nationalism has been emboldened by our
                      president, who routinely unleashes hostile tirades
                      against black and brown people — calling Mexican
                      migrants criminals, “rapists” and “bad people,” <a
href="https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/trump-referred-haiti-african-countries-shithole-nations-n836946"
                        title="" rel="noopener noreferrer"
                        target="_blank">referring</a> to developing
                      African nations as “shithole countries” and <a
href="https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/1155073965880172544?lang=en"
                        title="" rel="noopener noreferrer"
                        target="_blank">smearing</a> a district of the
                      majority-black city of Baltimore as a “disgusting,
                      rat and rodent infested mess.” Millions of
                      Americans are cheering, or at least tolerating,
                      these racial hostilities.</p>
                    <p>Contrary to what many people would have us
                      believe, what our nation is experiencing is not an
                      “aberration.” The politics of “Trumpism” and “fake
                      news” are not new; they are as old as the nation
                      itself. The very same playbook has been used over
                      and over in this country by those who seek to
                      preserve racial hierarchy, or to exploit racial
                      resentments and anxieties for political gain, each
                      time with similar results.</p>
                    <p>Back in the 1980s and ’90s, Democratic and
                      Republican politicians leaned heavily on the
                      racial stereotypes of “crack heads,” “crack
                      babies,” “superpredators” and “welfare queens” to
                      mobilize public support for the War on Drugs, a
                      get-tough movement and a prison-building boom — a
                      political strategy that was traceable in large
                      part to the desire to appeal to poor and
                      working-class white voters who had defected from
                      the Democratic Party in the wake of the civil
                      rights movement.</p>
                    <p>Today, the rhetoric has changed, but the game
                      remains the same. Public enemy No. 1 in the 2016
                      election was a brown-skinned immigrant, an
                      “illegal,” a “terrorist” or an influx of people
                      who want to take your job or rape your daughter.
                      As Trump <a
href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2015/06/16/full-text-donald-trump-announces-a-presidential-bid/?arc404=true"
                        title="" rel="noopener noreferrer"
                        target="_blank">put it</a>: “When Mexico sends
                      its people, they’re not sending their best. …
                      They’re sending people that have lots of problems,
                      and they’re bringing those problems. … They’re
                      bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re
                      rapists.”</p>
                  </div>
                </div>
                <div>
                  <p>He promised to solve this imaginary crisis through
                    mass deportation and building a wall between the
                    United States and Mexico. He also insisted that his
                    political opponent, Hillary Clinton, wanted
                    “millions of illegal immigrants to come in and take
                    everybody’s jobs.” And he blamed domestic
                    terroristic attacks in New Jersey and New York on
                    “our extremely open immigration system,” which, he
                    argued, allows Muslim terrorists into our country.</p>
                </div>
                <div>
                  <div>
                    <p>The fact that Trump’s claims were demonstrably
                      false did not impede his rise, just as facts were
                      largely irrelevant at the outset of the War on
                      Drugs. It didn’t matter back then that studies
                      consistently found that whites were equally
                      likely, if not <a
href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/09/30/white-people-are-more-likely-to-deal-drugs-but-black-people-are-more-likely-to-get-arrested-for-it/"
                        title="" rel="noopener noreferrer"
                        target="_blank">more</a> likely, than people of
                      color to use and sell illegal drugs. Black people
                      were still labeled the enemy. Nor did it matter,
                      when the drug war was taking off, that nearly all
                      of the sensationalized claims that crack cocaine
                      was some kind of “demon drug,” drastically more
                      harmful than powder cocaine, were false or
                      misleading. Black people charged with possession
                      of crack in inner cities were still punished far
                      more harshly than white people in possession of
                      powder cocaine in the suburbs. And it didn’t
                      matter that African-Americans weren’t actually
                      taking white people’s jobs or college educations
                      in significant numbers through affirmative action
                      programs.</p>
                    <p>Getting tough on “them” — the racially defined
                      “others” who could easily be used as scapegoats
                      and cast as the enemy — was all that mattered.
                      Facts were treated as largely irrelevant then. As
                      they are now.</p>
                    <p>Fortunately, a growing number of scholars and
                      activists have begun to connect the dots between
                      mass incarceration and mass deportation in our
                      nation’s history and current politics. The
                      historian Kelly Lytle Hernández, in her essay “<a
href="https://urbanresearchnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Amnesty-or-Abolition_Dec-2011_BOOM.pdf"
                        title="" rel="noopener noreferrer"
                        target="_blank">Amnesty or Abolition</a>:
                      Felons, Illegals, and the Case for a New Abolition
                      Movement,” chronicles how these systems have
                      emerged as interlocking forms of social control
                      that relegate “aliens” and “felons” to a
                      racialized caste of outsiders. In recent decades,
                      the system of mass incarceration has stripped away
                      from millions of U.S. citizens basic civil and
                      human rights until their status mirrors (or dips
                      below) that of noncitizen immigrants within the
                      United States. This development has coincided with
                      the criminalization of immigration in the United
                      States, resulting in a new class of “illegal
                      immigrants” and “aliens” who are viewed and
                      treated like “felons” or “criminals.” Immigration
                      violations that were once treated as minor civil
                      infractions are now crimes. And minor legal
                      infractions, ranging from shoplifting to marijuana
                      possession to traffic violations, now routinely
                      prompt one of the nation’s most devastating
                      sanctions — deportation.</p>
                    <p>The story of how our “nation of immigrants” came
                      to deport and incarcerate so many for so little,
                      Hernández explains, is a story of race and
                      unfreedom reaching back to the era of
                      emancipation. If we fail to understand the
                      historical relationship between these systems,
                      especially the racial politics that enabled them,
                      we will be unable to build a truly united front
                      that will prevent the continual re-formation of
                      systems of racial and social control.</p>
                    <p>In my experience, those who argue that the
                      systems of mass incarceration and mass deportation
                      simply reflect sincere (but misguided) efforts to
                      address the real harms caused by crime, or the
                      real challenges created by surges in immigration,
                      tend to underestimate the corrupting influence of
                      white supremacy whenever black and brown people
                      are perceived to be the problem. “Between me and
                      the other world, there is ever an unasked
                      question,” W.E.B. Du Bois famously <a
href="https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1897/08/strivings-of-the-negro-people/305446/"
                        title="" rel="noopener noreferrer"
                        target="_blank">said</a> back in 1897: “How does
                      it feel to be a problem?” White people are
                      generally allowed to have problems, and they’ve
                      historically been granted the power to define and
                      respond to them. But people of color — in this
                      “land of the free” forged through slavery and
                      genocide — are regularly viewed and treated as the
                      problem.</p>
                  </div>
                </div>
                <div>
                  <p>This distinction has made all the difference. Once
                    human beings are defined as the problem in the
                    public consciousness, their elimination through
                    deportation, incarceration or even genocide becomes
                    nearly inevitable.</p>
                </div>
                <div>
                  <div>
                    <p>White nationalism, at its core, reflects a belief
                      that our nation’s problems would be solved if only
                      people of color could somehow be gotten rid of, or
                      at least better controlled. In short, mass
                      incarceration and mass deportation have less to do
                      with crime and immigration than the ways we’ve
                      chosen to respond to those issues when black and
                      brown people are framed as the problem.</p>
                    <p>As Khalil Gibran Muhammad points out in “The
                      Condemnation of Blackness,” throughout our
                      nation’s history, when crime and immigration have
                      been perceived as white, our nation’s response has
                      been radically different from when those phenomena
                      have been defined as black or brown. The systems
                      of mass incarceration and mass deportation may
                      seem entirely unrelated at first glance, but they
                      are both deeply rooted in our racial history, and
                      they both have expanded in part because of the <a
href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/08/opinion/sunday/criminal-justice-reforms-race-technology.html"
                        title="">enormous profits</a> to be made in
                      controlling, exploiting and eliminating vulnerable
                      human beings.</p>
                    <p>It is tempting to imagine that electing a
                      Democratic president or more Democratic
                      politicians will fix the crises in our justice
                      systems and our democracy. To be clear, removing
                      Trump from office is necessary and urgent; but
                      simply electing more Democrats to office is no
                      guarantee that our nation will break its habit of
                      birthing enormous systems of racial and social
                      control. Indeed, one of the lessons of recent
                      decades is these systems can grow and thrive even
                      when our elected leaders claim to be progressive
                      and espouse the rhetoric of equality, inclusion
                      and civil rights.</p>
                    <p>President Bill Clinton, who publicly aligned
                      himself with the black community and black
                      leaders, escalated a racially discriminatory drug
                      war in part <a
href="https://www.themarshallproject.org/2016/04/11/bill-clinton-black-lives-and-the-myths-of-the-1994-crime-bill"
                        title="" rel="noopener noreferrer"
                        target="_blank">to avoid</a> being cast by
                      conservatives as “soft on crime.” Similarly,
                      President Obama publicly preached values of
                      inclusion and compassion toward immigrants, yet he
                      escalated the mass detention and deportation of
                      noncitizens.</p>
                    <p>Obama <a
href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2014/11/20/remarks-president-address-nation-immigration"
                        title="" rel="noopener noreferrer"
                        target="_blank">claimed</a> that his
                      administration was focused on deporting: “Felons,
                      not families. Criminals, not children. Gang
                      members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide
                      for her kids.” However, reports by <a
href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/07/us/more-deportations-follow-minor-crimes-data-shows.html"
                        title="">The New York Times</a> and <a
href="https://www.themarshallproject.org/2016/09/26/who-is-ice-deporting"
                        title="" rel="noopener noreferrer"
                        target="_blank">the Marshall Project</a>
                      revealed that, despite Obama’s rhetoric, a clear
                      majority of immigrants detained and deported
                      during his administration had no criminal records,
                      except minor infractions, including traffic
                      violations, and posed no threat.</p>
                    <p>Equally important is the reality that “felons”
                      have families. And “criminals” are often children
                      or teenagers. The notion that, if you’ve ever
                      committed a crime, you’re permanently disposable
                      is the very idea that has rationalized mass
                      incarceration in the United States.</p>
                  </div>
                </div>
                <div>
                  <div>
                    <p>None of this is to minimize the real progress
                      that has occurred on many issues of race and
                      criminal justice during the past decade. Today,
                      there is bipartisan support for some prison
                      downsizing, and hundreds of millions of
                      philanthropic dollars have begun to flow toward
                      criminal justice reform. A vibrant movement led by
                      formerly incarcerated and convicted people is on
                      the rise — a movement that has challenged or
                      repealed disenfranchisement laws in several
                      states, mobilized support of sentencing reform and
                      successfully organized to “ban the box” on
                      employment applications that discriminate against
                      those with criminal records by asking the dreaded
                      question: “Have you ever been convicted of a
                      felony?”</p>
                    <p>Activism challenging police violence has swept
                      the nation — inspired by the courageous uprisings
                      in Ferguson, Mo., the viral videos of police
                      killings of unarmed black people, and
                      #BlackLivesMatter. Promising movements for
                      restorative and transformative justice have taken
                      hold in numerous cities. Campaigns against cash
                      bail have gained steam. Marijuana legalization has
                      sped across the nation, with <a
href="https://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/marijuana-overview.aspx"
                        title="" rel="noopener noreferrer"
                        target="_blank">more than 25 states</a> having
                      partly or fully decriminalized cannabis since
                      2012.</p>
                    <p>And “The New Jim Crow,” which some predicted
                      would never get an audience, wound up spending
                      nearly 250 weeks on the New York Times best-seller
                      list and has been used widely by faith groups,
                      activists, educators and people directly affected
                      by mass incarceration inside and outside prisons.
                      Over the past 10 years, I’ve received thousands of
                      letters — and tens of thousands of emails — from
                      people in all walks of life who have written to
                      share how the book changed their lives or how they
                      have used it to support consciousness-raising or
                      activism in countless ways.</p>
                    <p>Everything has changed. And yet nothing has.</p>
                  </div>
                </div>
                <div>
                  <div>
                    <p>The politics of white supremacy, which defined
                      our original constitution, have continued unabated
                      — repeatedly and predictably engendering new
                      systems of racial and social control. Just a few
                      decades ago, politicians vowed to build more
                      prison walls. Today, they promise border walls.</p>
                    <p>The political strategy of divide, demonize and
                      conquer has worked for centuries in the United
                      States — since the days of slavery — to keep poor
                      and working people angry at (and fearful of) one
                      another rather than uniting to challenge unjust
                      political and economic systems. At times, the
                      tactics of white supremacy have led to open
                      warfare. Other times, the divisions and conflicts
                      are less visible, lurking beneath the surface.</p>
                    <p>The stakes now are as high as they’ve ever been.
                      Nearly everyone seems aware that our democracy is
                      in crisis, yet few seem prepared to reckon with
                      the reality that removing Trump from office will
                      not rid our nation of the social and political
                      dynamics that made his election possible. No issue
                      has proved more vexing to this nation than the
                      issue of race, and yet no question is more
                      pressing than how to overcome the politics of
                      white supremacy — a form of politics that not only
                      led to an actual civil war but that threatens our
                      ability ever to create a truly fair, just and
                      inclusive democracy.</p>
                  </div>
                </div>
                <div>
                  <div>
                    <p>We find ourselves in this dangerous place not
                      because something radically different has occurred
                      in our nation’s politics, but because so much has
                      remained the same.</p>
                    <p>The inconvenient truth is that racial progress in
                      this country is always more complex and frequently
                      more illusory than it appears at first glance. The
                      past 10 years has been a case in point. Our nation
                      has swung sharply from what Marc Mauer memorably
                      termed “a race to incarcerate” — propelled by
                      bipartisan wars on “drugs” and “crime” — to a
                      bipartisan commitment to criminal justice reform,
                      particularly in the area of drug policy. And yet,
                      it must be acknowledged that much of the progress
                      occurred not because of newfound concern for
                      people of color who have been the primary targets
                      of the drug war, but because drug addiction, due
                      to the opioid crisis, became perceived as a white
                      problem, and wealthy white investors became
                      interested in profiting from the emerging legal
                      cannabis industry.</p>
                    <p>Some of the reversals in political opinion have
                      been striking. For example, John Boehner, a former
                      Republican speaker of the House of
                      Representatives, stated in 2011 that he was
                      “unalterably opposed to decriminalizing
                      marijuana,” but by the spring of 2018 he had
                      joined the board of a cannabis company.</p>
                    <p>Growing sympathy for illegal drug users among
                      whites and conservatives, and concern regarding
                      the expense of mass imprisonment, helped to make
                      possible a bipartisan consensus in support of the
                      Trump administration’s First Step Act — leading to
                      the early release of more<a
href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/20/us/first-step-act-criminal-justice.html"
                        title=""> than 3,000 people</a> from federal
                      prisons for drug offenses. This development, which
                      benefits people of color subject to harsh and
                      biased drug sentencing laws, is difficult to
                      characterize as major progress toward ending mass
                      incarceration, given that Trump continued to
                      unleash racially hostile tirades against
                      communities of color and his administration vowed
                      to <a
href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/21/us/politics/justice-department-death-penalty-barr.html"
                        title="">reinstate</a> the federal death
                      penalty. He also rescinded a number of significant
                      reforms adopted by Obama and <a
href="https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/nation/2019/12/19/ice-detention-private-prisons-expands-under-trump-administration/4393366002/"
                        title="" rel="noopener noreferrer"
                        target="_blank">expanded</a> the use of private
                      prisons.</p>
                  </div>
                </div>
                <div>
                  <div>
                    <p>Obama also has a complicated legacy with respect
                      to criminal justice reform. Obama was the <a
href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/17/us/obama-el-reno-oklahoma-prison.html"
                        title="">first</a> sitting president to visit a
                      federal correctional facility, the <a
href="https://www.businessinsider.com/obama-oversees-drop-in-federal-prison-population-first-president-in-36-years-2017-1"
                        title="" rel="noopener noreferrer"
                        target="_blank">first</a> to oversee a drop in
                      the federal prison population in more than 30
                      years, and he granted clemency to nearly 2,000
                      people behind bars — the <a
href="https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/20/obama-used-more-clemency-power/"
                        title="" rel="noopener noreferrer"
                        target="_blank">highest</a> total for any
                      president since Harry Truman. His administration
                      enacted significant policy changes, including
                      legislation <a
href="https://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/08/03/fair.sentencing/index.html"
                        title="" rel="noopener noreferrer"
                        target="_blank">reducing</a> sentencing
                      disparities involving crack and powder cocaine, a
                      <a
href="https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/02/23/516916688/private-prisons-back-in-mix-for-federal-inmates-as-sessions-rescinds-order"
                        title="" rel="noopener noreferrer"
                        target="_blank">phasing out</a> of federal
                      contracts with private prisons, and <a
href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/28/us/politics/trump-police-military-surplus-equipment.html"
                        title="">limitations</a> on the transfer of
                      military equipment to local police departments.</p>
                    <p>And yet it sometimes appeared that Obama was
                      reluctant to acknowledge the depth and breadth of
                      the structural changes required to address police
                      violence and the prevailing systems of racial and
                      social control.</p>
                  </div>
                </div>
                <div>
                  <div>
                    <p>For example, when black Harvard professor Henry
                      Louis Gates Jr. was arrested in his own home for
                      no reason, Obama responded to the national furor
                      and media frenzy by <a
                        href="https://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/31/us/politics/31obama.html"
                        title="">inviting</a> Gates and the arresting
                      officer to a “beer summit” at the White House to
                      work things out over drinks and peanuts, as though
                      racial profiling is little more than an
                      interpersonal dispute that can be resolved through
                      friendly dialogue.</p>
                    <p>Most troubling, the modest criminal justice
                      reforms that were achieved during the Obama
                      administration coincided with the expansion of the
                      system of mass deportation. Although the
                      administration agreed to phase out federal
                      contracts for private prisons, it made enormous
                      investments in private detention centers for
                      immigrants, including <a
href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/inside-the-administrations-1-billion-deal-to-detain-central-american-asylum-seekers/2016/08/14/e47f1960-5819-11e6-9aee-8075993d73a2_story.html"
                        title="" rel="noopener noreferrer"
                        target="_blank">the granting of a $1 billion
                        contract</a> to Corrections Corporation of
                      America, the nation’s largest prison company, to
                      build a detention facility for women and children
                      asylum seekers from Central America.</p>
                    <p>Immigrant detention centers were exempted from
                      the phaseout plan for private prisons, which meant
                      that only about a quarter of the population held
                      in private facilities in the United States was
                      affected by the plan. The caging of immigrants for
                      profit was <a
href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/aug/19/private-prisons-closure-limited-impact-justice-department"
                        title="" rel="noopener noreferrer"
                        target="_blank">allowed to continue</a> without
                      restraint.</p>
                  </div>
                </div>
                <div>
                  <div>
                    <p>The reality is that, during both the Obama and
                      Clinton years, highly racialized and punitive
                      systems thrived under liberal presidents who were
                      given the benefit of the doubt by those who might
                      otherwise have been critics. Obama and Clinton’s
                      public displays of affection for communities of
                      color, the egalitarian values they preached and
                      their liberal or progressive stances on other
                      issues helped to shield these vast systems of
                      control from close scrutiny.</p>
                    <p>Many of us saw these presidents as “good people”
                      with our best interests at heart, doing what they
                      could to navigate a political environment in which
                      only limited justice is possible. All of these
                      factors played a role, but one was key: These
                      systems grew with relatively little political
                      resistance because people of all colors were
                      willing to tolerate the disposal of millions of
                      individuals once they had been labeled criminals
                      in the media and political discourse. This painful
                      reality suggests that ending our nation’s habit of
                      creating enormous systems of racial and social
                      control requires us to expand our sphere of moral
                      concern so widely that none of us, not even those
                      branded criminals, can be viewed or treated as
                      disposable.</p>
                    <p>If there is any silver lining to be found in the
                      election of Donald Trump to the presidency, it is
                      that millions of people have been inspired to
                      demonstrate solidarity on a large scale across the
                      lines of gender, race, religion and class in
                      defense of those who have been demonized and
                      targeted for elimination. Trump’s blatant racial
                      demagogy has awakened many from their “colorblind”
                      slumber and spurred collective action to oppose
                      the Muslim ban and the border wall, and to create
                      sanctuaries for immigrants in their places of
                      worship and local communities.</p>
                  </div>
                </div>
                <div>
                  <div>
                    <p>Many who are engaged in this work are also deeply
                      involved in, or supportive of, movements to end
                      police violence and mass incarceration. Growing
                      numbers of people are beginning to see how the
                      politics of white supremacy have resurfaced again
                      and again, leading to the creation and maintenance
                      of new systems of racial and social control. A
                      politics of deep solidarity is beginning to emerge
                      — the only form of politics that holds any hope
                      for our collective liberation.</p>
                    <p>The centuries-long struggle to birth a truly
                      inclusive, egalitarian democracy — a nation in
                      which every voice and every life truly matters —
                      did not begin with us, and it will not end with
                      us. The struggle is as old as the nation itself
                      and the birth process has been painful, to say the
                      least. My greatest hope and prayer is that we will
                      serve as faithful midwives in our lifetimes and do
                      what we can to make America, finally, what it must
                      become.</p>
                    <p>Michelle Alexander is a civil rights lawyer and
                      advocate, legal scholar and author of the 10th
                      anniversary edition of “<a
                        href="https://thenewpress.com/books/new-jim-crow"
                        title="" rel="noopener noreferrer"
                        target="_blank">The New Jim Crow: Mass
                        Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness</a>,”
                      from which this essay is adapted.</p>
                    <p><em>The Times is committed to publishing </em><a
href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/31/opinion/letters/letters-to-editor-new-york-times-women.html"
                        title=""><em>a diversity of letters</em></a><em>
                        to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think
                        about this or any of our articles. Here are some
                      </em><a
href="https://help.nytimes.com/hc/en-us/articles/115014925288-How-to-submit-a-letter-to-the-editor"
                        title=""><em>tips</em></a><em>. And here’s our
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