52 Quotes of Michelle Alexander About Law

” I think most people have a general sense that when you’re released from prison, life is hard, but, you know, if you work hard and apply self-discipline and stay out of trouble, you can make it. But that’s true only for a relative few. “
” We need transformational change of our criminal justice system – not just, you know, a handful of consent decrees or policy reforms. “
” Susan Burton’s life story – filled with trauma, struggle, and true heroism – is precisely the kind of story that has the potential to change the way we view our world. “
” In 2004, there were more black men disenfranchised than in 1870 – the year the 15th Amendment was ratified, prohibiting laws that deny the right to vote exclusively on the basis of race. “
” The very rights that we supposedly won for African Americans in the civil rights movement no longer exist for those labeled felons. That’s why I say we have not ended racial caste in America; we’ve merely redesigned it. “
” As described in ‘The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,’ the cyclical rebirth of caste in America is a recurring racial nightmare. “
” Incarceration rates, especially black incarceration rates, have soared regardless of whether crime is going up or down in any given community or the nation as a whole. “
” When people have been hurt over and over, and rather than compassion or understanding you’re given lectures about how it’s really all your fault and that no one needs to make amends, you can lose your mind. “
” I think we’ve become blind in this country to the ways in which we’ve managed to reinvent a caste-like system here in the United States, one that functions in a manner that is as oppressive, in many respects, as the one that existed in South Africa under apartheid and that existed under Jim Crow here in the United States. “
” People have a false understanding of what our legal system is like – how it works/operates – from shows like ‘Law and Order,’ which suggest that lawyers appear on demand and do a tremendous amount of investigation and background research. “
” The fact that our legal system has become so tolerant of police lying indicates how corrupted our criminal justice system has become by declarations of war, ‘get tough’ mantras, and a seemingly insatiable appetite for locking up and locking out the poorest and darkest among us. “
” What we’re dealing with is institutional, and unless systems are put into place that will ensure accountability, we can expect racially biased police practices to continue. “
” The cyclical rebirth of caste in America is a recurring racial nightmare. “
” Now that private prison companies have found that they can make a killing on mass incarceration, these private prison companies are now in the business of building detention centers for suspected illegal immigrants. “
” I believe that Trayvon Martin’s life might well have been spared if many of us who care about racial justice had raised our voices much, much sooner and much, much more loudly about the routine stereotyping and profiling of young black men and boys. “
” The greatest myth about mass incarceration is that it has been driven by crime and crime rates. It’s just not true. “
” Prosecutors frequently overcharge, load up charges on individual defendants, knowing that three strikes laws and harsh mandatory minimum sentences will force people to plea bargain and essentially convict themselves because they’re terrified of doing a life sentence for a relatively minor crime. “
” I believe this system of mass incarceration would have Dr. King turning in his grave. There’s no doubt in my mind that Dr. King would be doing everything in his power to build a movement to end mass incarceration in the United States; a movement for education, not incarceration. “
” In the ‘era of colorblindness,’ there’s a nearly fanatical desire to cling to the myth that we, as a nation, have ‘moved beyond’ race. “
” When we pull back the curtain and take a look at what our ‘colorblind’ society creates without affirmative action, we see a familiar social, political, and economic structure – the structure of racial caste. The entrance into this new caste system can be found at the prison gate. “
” Discrimination in virtually every aspect of political, economic, and social life is now perfectly legal if you’ve been labeled a felon. “
” The uncomfortable reality we must face is that California, like the nation as a whole, has treated generations of African Americans and Latinos as largely disposable. “
” If you take into account prisoners, a large majority of African American men in some urban areas, like Chicago, have been labeled felons for life. These men are part of a growing undercaste – not class, caste – a group of people who are permanently relegated, by law, to an inferior second-class status. “
” The clock has been turned back on racial progress in America, though scarcely anyone seems to notice. All eyes are fixed on people like Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey who have defied the odds and achieved great power, wealth, and fame. “
” Private landlords as well as public landlords are free to discriminate against people with criminal records for the rest of their lives. You come out of prison, and where are you expected to go? “
” It doesn’t matter if that felony happened three weeks ago or thirty-five years ago – for the rest of your life, you’ve got to check that box, knowing full well the odds are sky-high your application is going straight to the trash. “
” During the Jim Crow era, poll taxes and literacy tests kept the African-Americans from polls. But today, felon disenfranchisement laws accomplished what poll taxes and literacy tests ultimately could not, because those laws were struck down. But felony disenfranchisement laws had been allowed to stand. “
” Almost no one refuses the police when confronted on the street or in a train or plane or train station. When you’re confronted by the police, very few – either the foolish or the very brave – will refuse consent when confronted by the police. “
” Thousands of people go to jail, go to prison, every year without even meeting with an attorney. “
” The extraordinary nature of individual black achievement in formerly white domain certainly does suggest that the old Jim Crow is dead, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of racial caste – if history is any guide, it may have just taken a different form. “
” The success of the few does not excuse the caste-like system that exists for many. In fact, black exceptionalism – the high-profile, highly visible examples of the black success – actually serves to justify and rationalize mass incarceration. “
” I am inclined to believe that it would be easier to build a new party than to save the Democratic Party from itself. “
” Some might argue that it’s unfair to judge Hillary Clinton for the policies her husband championed years ago. But Hillary wasn’t picking out china while she was first lady. She bravely broke the mold and redefined that job in ways no woman ever had before. “
” Activists take the risks, while advocates are professional tinkerers with the system. What’s necessary is for those who are advocates to support those who are activists and to envision themselves as activists. “
” On any given day, there’s always something I’d rather be doing than facing the ugly, racist underbelly of America. “
” I no longer believe that we can ‘fix’ the police, as though the police are anything other than a mirror reflecting back to us the true nature of our democracy. “
” We cannot ‘fix’ the police without a revolution of values and radical change to the basic structure of our society. “
” Our entire political system is financed by wealthy private interests buying politicians and making sure the rules are written in their favor. “
” I don’t think I understood the full extent of the trauma experienced by people who churn through America’s prisons until I began taking the time to listen to their stories. “
” The love affair between black folks and the Clintons has been going on for a long time. It began back in 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for president. He threw on some shades and played the saxophone on ‘The Arsenio Hall Show.’ It seems silly in retrospect, but many of us fell for that. “
” Globalization and deindustrialization affected workers of all colors but hit African Americans particularly hard. “
” Bill Clinton presided over the largest increase in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history. “
” Bill Clinton championed discriminatory laws against formerly incarcerated people that have kept millions of Americans locked in a cycle of poverty and desperation. “
” In my view, the most important lesson we can learn from Dr. King is not what he said at the March on Washington but what he said and did after the march. In the years following the march, he did not play politics to see what crumbs a fundamentally corrupt system might toss to the beggars for justice. “
” I am still committed to building a movement to end mass incarceration, but I will not do it with blinders on. If all we do is end mass incarceration, this movement will not have gone nearly far enough. “
” Martin Luther King Jr. could have argued that separate water fountains were too expensive, a waste of money. He would have been right about that. But cost was beside the point. “
” People return home from prison and face legal discrimination in virtually all areas of social and economic and political life. They are legally discriminated against employment, barred from public housing, and denied other public benefits. “
” The U.S. Supreme Court has eviscerated Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, giving the police license to sweep communities, to conduct ‘stop and frisk’ operations. “
” I believe it is possible to bring an end to mass incarceration and birth a new moral consensus about how we ought to be responding to poor folks of color and a consensus in support of basic human rights for all. But it is going to take some work. “
” The Supreme Court has made it nearly impossible to prove race discrimination in the criminal justice system. “
” After years as a civil rights lawyer, I rarely find myself speechless. “
” More than 90 percent of criminal cases are never tried before a jury. Most people charged with crimes forfeit their constitutional rights and plead guilty. “