In celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Week, UNC Asheville will feature Michelle Alexander, author of the best-seller The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.
Alexander will be delivering the week’s keynote address on Thursday, Jan. 18, beginning at 7 p.m. in Kimmel Arena at UNC Asheville’s Sherrill Center on campus. The event is free and open to the public, and no tickets are required for attendance. Doors for the event will open at 6 p.m., and seating is first-come, first serve.
A graduate of Stanford Law School and former clerk to Justice Harry Blackmun of the U.S. Supreme Court, Alexander is a noted civil-rights-lawyer-turned-legal-scholar-and-advocate who explores the impact of racial injustice on the American legal system. Alexander contends that the contemporary American justice system also, in part, acts as a system of racial control pointing out that today, there are more black men in prison or jail, or on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850.
She writes that the nation’s war on drugs unfairly targets black men – on average, receiving prison sentences 20 to 50 times longer than the sentences of their white counterparts who committed the same crime. Due to these inflated incarceration rates, poverty – especially amongst black youth – is higher today than in 1968, creating a cycle of racial injustice that perpetuates poverty and inequality.
The New Jim Crow explores the parallels between the discrimination that non-violent criminals deal with today after they are released from prison compared to the discrimination blacks in the segregated South experienced due to the Jim Crow laws – a series of mandates placed into effect in the late 19th century after the Reconstruction era that mandated racial segregation and perpetuating the term ‘separate but equal.’
Alexander writes notes that individuals labeled as felons can be denied the right to vote and be legally discriminated against when it comes to employment, housing, access to education and public benefits. Using her research to show that black men are more likely to be unfairly targeted and tried as felons by the American justice system, it follows that they are also more likely to experience continued discrimination past the justice system, creating a culture of incarceration and related poverty.
Through her experiences as the director of the Racial Justice Project for the ACLU where she led a national campaign against racial profiling by law enforcement, background in class action lawsuits in the fields of race and gender discrimination, and as a former associate professor of law at Stanford Law School, where she directed the Civil Rights Clinics, Alexander seeks to create real change in the criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and policy change.
In addition to The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Alexander will also release two books this year, one of which explores her move from the belief that justice can be won through litigation and policy, to the belief that change will only come from a true change in the moral values of contemporary America. The second book, planned for the fall of 2018, will include a collection of essays, sermons and speeches from justice advocates and faith leaders from a wide range of backgrounds.
For more information, contact UNC Asheville Events & Conferences Office at 828-251-6853 or visit events.unca.edu. Please note, backpacks are not allowed in Kimmel Arena and bags will be checked at the door. No outside food and drink are allowed.