The article “Schools and the New Jim Crow” An Interview with Michelle Alexander is about the mass incarceration of blacks in the United States in this post-racial society. She analyzes a variety of statistics since 1970 and highlights that the number of people behind bars in this country has increased by 600%. Alexander talks about the theory of colorblindness (like Armstrong and Wildman) and uses a metaphor explaining that the structural racism that exists is like a “birdcage” and “school-to-prison pipeline.”
One quote that sticks out to me is in the beginning of the interview “What has changed since the collapse of the Jim Crow has less to do with the basic stricture of our society… In the era of colorblindness it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, or social contempt…. we use our criminal justice system to label people of color “criminals”… we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” It seems that with the end of the Jim Crow mindset, the 21st century attitude mirrors the racial discrimination in a different way, which keeps blacks from the same opportunities as whites. Armstrong and Wildman write “Colorblindness is the new racism… the failure to acknowledge racial reality in the United States reinforces and solidifies existing racial inequality…” (67). I strongly believe that society moved into the age of colorblindness where we think there is equality for blacks and whites, but use the justice system to still maintain the status-quo of white privilege and power.
Alexander also says that there is a domino effect happening when parents of color who are incarcerated are more likely to have children who will be incarcerated. She used the “birdcage” as a metaphor to describe “wires that keep a person trapped… they don’t have to be created to harm the bird, but they still serve that function” Alexander says the they are “born into a community in which the rules, laws, policies, structures of their lives virtually guarantee that they will remain trapped for life.” This creates the notion that those in the “birdcage” will be denied the privileges of the "privileged." She also says “The cage itself if a manifested ghetto, which is racially segregated, isolated, cut off from social and economic opportunities.” This suggests to me that, mobility into a social privileged world will not be a reality for the under-privileged. I also believe that holding people in an economic and social crunch will not only limit them, but also continue to label them as a failure (forever?). Alexander says that “the school-to-prison pipeline is another metaphor—a good one for explaining how children are funneled directly from schools into prison. Instead of schools bring a pipeline for opportunity, schools are feeding our prisons.”
Alexander concludes by saying “…talk to young people about these issues in ways that won’t lead to paralysis, fear, or resignation, but instead enlighten and inspire action… it is important to teach them about the reality of the system…” I think she is thinking along the same lines as Delpit in The Silenced Dialogue “I suggest that students must be taught the codes needed to participate fully in the mainstream of American life…” (45). Both Delpit and Alexander make points saying that educators should teach and encourage students to think about how they can make changes and to voice their own opinions and empower them.