Imagine What We Could Build

Imagine What We Could Build

I finished reading Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness last week, the 10th anniversary edition, the original staying at the top of the New York Times best-seller list for almost five years. 

For good reason. Widely and highly praised for its hard-hitting, unflinching clarity about the realities of the prison system built in response to the war on drugs in the 1980’s, and the use of that system to hold thousands of black and brown people in prison for decades and then in stigma forever upon release. 

We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely re-designed it. – Michelle Alexander

The New Jim Crow is one of those must-read books like Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste or Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, all best-sellers because we so desperately need guidance on what’s wrong in our society and how to begin to make it right

What our nation is experiencing today is not an ‘aberration’….We find ourselves in this dangerous place [in 2020] not because something radically different has occurred in our national politics, but because so much has remained the same.

– Michelle Alexander 

Then, just two days after I finished The New Jim Crow and was falling into a rather leaden despair about what to do, Karma Tube sends this inspiring video to my inbox, Imagine a World without Prisons and What We Could Build Instead. It’s architect Deanna van Buren’s inspiring 2017 TED talk about designing restorative justice spaces where prisoners and families are treated with respect and given skills/resources to re-enter the world and repair their lives.  Van Buren doesn’t mince words either, but she conveys the energy and hope we need to turn around a criminal justice system that has become fairly criminal itself. 

Nothing on earth is more gladdening than knowing we must roll up our sleeves and move back the boundaries of the humanly possible once more.

– Annie Dillard

I strongly encourage you to watch the 15-minute video, Imagine a World without Prisons and What We Could Build Instead. An honest, clear-eyed path out of the post-pandemic doldrums into wise, compassionate, and effective action.

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