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New Jim Crow Lesson 5

Mass Incarceration as a Form of Racialized Social Control

Hello and welcome to Lesson 5 of the Teach Tolerance Lesson Plan for the New Jim Crow. Michelle Alexander was inspired to write The New Jim Crow while working as a civil rights lawyer at the ACLU, and you can read her interview with Teaching Tolerance : A Conversation with Michelle Alexander . Teach Tolerance’s mission is to Discover and develop world-class materials with a community of educators committed to diversity, equity and justice.

Essential Questions

  • How did racial hierarchy adapt once racial discrimination became illegal?
  • How did the War on Drugs create the subtext for a new system of racialized social control?
  • What is the “new Jim Crow”?

Tier II and III vocabulary

  • Capitulate cease to resist an opponent or an unwelcome demand; to surrender under specified conditions
  • Complicitinvolved with others in an illegal activity or wrongdoing, neutral in times of needed action
  • Deindustrialization – A reduction in the size or share of the manufacturing sector in an economy, decline in industrial activity
  • Fear Mongering – a person who delights in spreading rumours of disaster, an alarmist
  • Imagery – A set of mental pictures or images.
  • Mobilizeto put into movement or circulation
  • Resentmenta feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury
  • Rhetoric A style of speaking or writing, especially the language of a particular subject verbal communication :discourse
  • Sanitizeto make more acceptable by removing unpleasant or undesired features, attempts to sanitize historical accounts
  • Sensationalize – To present in a manner intended to arouse curiosity or broad interest, especially through the inclusion of exaggerated or lurid details
  • WittinglyAware or conscious of something. Done intentionally or with premeditation; deliberate.

Warm Up

Exercise 1: Video; A discussion of how racial politics have evolved since the civil rights era and how the use of coded racial appeals manifests in U.S. politics today. 

Video: Dog Whistle Politics: Ian Haney López at TEDxUOregon

Exercise 2. Before we get started or into the chapter consider the last two lessons and our last guided reading. In your head , or if you want to write it down and later participate in the comments – complete the following prompts “Something I know … ,”   “Something I believe … ” and “Something I wonder … ” about each of the following (totaling nine responses):

  1. the War on Drugs
  2. the Clinton presidency
  3. the civil rights movement

Chapter 1, Part 3

Exercise 1: This lesson focuses on a subsection of Chapter 1, “The Rebirth of Caste,” in which Alexander discusses mass incarceration as a form of racialized social control. Lesson 5 excerpt here: “Mass Incarceration as a Form of Racialized Social Control , while we are reading consider the following…

  1. What did white opposition to desegregation look like ? 
  2. In which way, did white conservatives search for a new racial order after the civil rights movement?
  3. What role did race play in the political realignments that took place in the decades following the civil rights movement?
  4. How were fear mongering, rhetoric and imagery used to build support for the War on Drugs?
  5. Juxtapose race-neutral rhetoric about crime with the racially disproportionate impact the War on Drugs has had on communities of color, what are your observations? What aspects are grossly unfair? Why?

Guided Reading Lesson 5

Guided Reading Critical Thinking Questions:

Exercise 2: Return to your warm-up “I know … , I wonder … , I believe … ” responses and respond. 

  1. Has anything you thought you knew changed? Explain.
  2. Have any of your beliefs changed? Explain.
  3. Were any of the things you wondered about answered? Explain.
  4. What new questions do you have?

Full Audio: Chapter 1

1. Katherine Beckett, Making Crime Pay: Law and Order in Contemporary American Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 32; Marc Mauer, “Two-Tiered Justice: Race, Class and Crime Policy,” in The Integration Debate: Competing Futures for American Cities, ed. Chester Hartman and Gregory Squires (New York: Routledge, 2005), 171.
2. Marc Mauer, Race to Incarcerate (New York: The New Press, 1999), 52.
3. See, e.g., Patrick Buchanan, The New Majority: President Nixon at Mid-Passage (Philadelphia: Girard Bank, 1973).
4. See Kevin Phillips, The Emerging Republican Majority (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1969).
5. Thomas Byrne Edsall and Mary D. Edsall, Chain Reaction: The Impact of Race, Rights, and Taxes on American Politics (New York: Norton, 1992), 38.
 6. Ibid., 138; see also Jeremy Mayer, Running on Race (New York: Random House, 2002), 71.
7. Ibid., 56; see also Julian Roberts, “Public Opinion, Crime and Criminal Justice,” in
Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, vol. 16, ed. Michael Tonry (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).
8. Beckett, Making Crime Pay, 53, citing Executive Office of the President, Budget of the U.S. Government (1990).
9. Ibid., citing U.S. Office of the National Drug Control Policy, National Drug Control Strategy (1992).
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid., 56.
12. See William Julius Wilson, When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor (New York: Vintage, 1997).
13. See Craig Reinarman and Harry Levine, “The Crack Attack: America’s Latest Drug Scare, 1986–1992,” in Images of Issues: Typify-ing Contemporary Social Problems, ed. Joel Best (New York: Aldine De Gruyter, 1995).
14. David Masci, “$30 Billion Anti-Crime Bill Heads to Clinton’s Desk,” Congressional Quarterly , Aug. 27, 1994, 2488–93; and Beckett, Making Crime Pay, 61.
15. Justice Policy Institute, “Clinton Crime Agenda Ignores Proven Methods for Reducing Crime,” Apr. 14, 2008, available online at -hmID=1817&smID=1571 ssmID=71.htm.