As Elie Wiesel once stated, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented” (“Elie Wiesel Quote”). Michelle Alexander a highly claimed civil rights lawyer stepped up and opened a lot of people’s eyes. Michelle is not just a civil rights lawyer she is also a professor at Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. Michelle also served as the director of the Racial Justice Project for the ACLU of Northern California, where she coordinated the Project’s media advocacy, grassroots organizing, coalition building, and litigation. She spoke about the role of silence and lack of silence in the criminal justice system both contribute to wrongly accused people and growing populations behind bars but, all of this was mostly about young African American males and how they were pushed behind bars for a very long time over a petty crime.
Michelle spoke about a young African male named Jarvious Cotton she said “Jarvious Cotton CANNOT VOTE, like his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather.” She mentions in her book that Cotton had been denied the right to participate in the electric democracy and that he also wasn’t able to vote because he, like many young African American males in the United States, has been labeled as a felon and is currently on parole or probation. Jarvious great-great grandfather could not vote because of slavery and slaves had no rights. His great-grandfather was beaten to his death by the Ku Klux Klan for trying to vote. His grandfather was banned from voting because of the Klan intimidation. His father was banned from voting by poll poll taxes and literacy test. She speaks about how Cotton’s story really moved her and pushed her into speaking up about all these things. She said “ Hundreds of years later, America is still not an egalitarian democracy” and, honestly I could definitely agree with that because a HUGE percentage of African Americans in the United States are legally banned from voting today.
If you are wondering “well what did Jarvious do?” On March 12, 1982, Jarvious and several men approached a young teen named Robert Irby and robbed him for $21, Irby then chased after them and one of the men (not Jarvious) shot and killed Irby. Jarvious was held in a private prison in Mississippi then, later escaped from that prison and was on the run in New york city. Jarvious was later caught by officers because of marijuana possession. After he was released her was labeled as a felon and wasn’t able to either get a job or vote.
I feel like today’s criminal justice system is all messed up, why? Racial inequality gets ignored because it doesn’t affect most people, in other words, mostly African and Native Americans are being treated a different kind of way when it comes to the law. Critics of the criminal justice system have cited many cases and studies. For an example, statistical studies suggest that a high percentage of black males in large cities can expect to be arrested at least once during their lifetime, and only 14 percent of white males are ever arrested. African-Americans make up 12 percent of the U.S. population, but they are 45 percent of all prison inmates and 40 percent of those sentenced to death. African americans are automatically labeled as criminals and killers and fingers are always pointed at them for crimes just because of their skin color.
Being a convicted felon can be very tough, you lose certain privileges, certain jobs won’t hire you ect. Talking about jobs not hiring a felon there is something I wanted to bring up because it has been bothering me, why is it that a lot of places would accept a white person thats a convicted felon but not a african american convicted felon? I mean seriously i can’t agree with Michelle anymore than i already do because it is so true.. No matter what our government says and even though we had the civil war there is still segregation going on. So, apparently 33 percent of african americans are convicted felons and those men are 25 percent under the age of 30. Young african american men are targeted by police because they come off as “Trouble” or “violent”. It isn’t fair how they are still being treated especially young African American males that get caught for petty crimes.
Michelle Alexander has been speaking out since May 2011 she spoke about prison,segregation and how she feels about how African Americans are being treated. I give this women all my respect especially to be a female and to speak out and let your voice be heard by all these powerful people around her. She manages to be a professor, have a family and still speak upon young african men. She is making a change and she is opening a lot of peoples eyes. This is a voice that won’t be forgotten.