Michelle Alexander: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Michelle Alexander

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The New York Times announced that Michelle Alexander will join the Opinion pages as a columnist in September.

In naming her as a columnist, The Times said Alexander is a “powerful writer, a fierce advocate for a more just world and a deep believer in open-minded, searching debate over how to achieve it.”

Author of ‘The New Jim Crow,’ she’s written for The Times previously but also for The Washington Post and The Nation.

Here’s what you need to know about Alexander:


1. Twitter Reaction, While Largely Positive, Did Include Some ‘Side Eye’

“This is phenomenal news, through and through. My goodness,” tweeted Jamil Smith, Rolling Stone senior writer.

“The sad part is that there’s almost no such thing as a good opinion columnist, so, um, best of luck to Michelle Alexander in defying the trend! Sincerely!” tweeted writer David Klion.

“I’m looking at the recent NY Times hire of Michelle Alexander with a side eye. Think about it: Alexander is a pro-Bernie, anti-Dem progressive, and they hire her just a few months before the midterms,” tweeted PragObots.


2. Alexander, a Civil Rights Lawyer, Advocate & Legal Scholar, Has Been Outspoken & Candid About Racist US Private & Public Policy

Alexander has taught at a number of universities, including Stanford Law School, where she was an associate professor of law and directed the Civil Rights Clinics. In 2005 she accepted a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. She is also a visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary.

In a 2014 article, Alexander was quoted as saying that black men, young and old, have bee the targets of the so-called war on drugs.

“We arrest these kids at young ages, saddle them with criminal records, throw them in cages, and then release them into a parallel social universe in which the very civil and human rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights movement no longer apply to them for the rest of their lives. They can be discriminated against [when it comes to] employment, housing, access to education, public benefits. They’re locked into a permanent second-class status for life. And we’ve done this in precisely the communities that were most in need of our support.”

Writer Rebecca Carroll said Alexander is a “master at distilling and framing history, and we need her to help us keep things clear, to stay on track, to keep pushing for change.”


3.Alexander’s Book ‘The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness’ Was Banned in Some Prisons

New York Times editorial page editor James Bennet said Alexander’s book “changed the way many of us think about criminal justice and about the persistence and adaptation of forms of racial control in the United States.”

On her Facebook page, Alexander wrote that she hoped “the media coverage of my book being banned by prisons in numerous states will help open the door to more challenges to the many rules, laws, and practices that have the purpose or effect of keeping people in prison as ignorant, demoralized, and powerless as possible.”

The New Jim Crow, was called a “troubling and profoundly necessary book,” by the Miami Herald.

Her book, prize-winning (and shortlisted) for more than a half dozen academic and publishing accolades, is described as being one that comes along once in a lifetime and “changes the way we see the world and helps to fuel a nationwide social movement.”

Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as “brave and bold,” this book directly challenges the notion that the presidency of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness.

The book argues, with “dazzling candor,” that the “racial caste in America” has not ended rather has been “redesigned it.”

“By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness,” the book, described as a “call to action” explores.


4.A Bernie Sanders Supporter, Alexander Criticized the Clinton Administration. She Also Launched an ACLU ‘Driving While Black or Brown Campaign’

In 2016, in a Facebook post, Alexander chided the media for its portrayal, she said, of huge swaths of African-Americans supporting Hillary Clinton arguing that if people knew that the Clinton administration supported mass incarceration and its “total capitulation of a right-wing narrative on race, crime, welfare and taxes.”

Alexander coordinated the Racial Justice Project for the ACLU of Northern California and did “media advocacy, grassroots organizing, coalition building, and litigation,” her bio reads.

The priorities were educational equity and criminal justice reform, and it was “during those years at the ACLU that she began to awaken to the reality that our nation’s criminal justice system functions more like a caste system than a system of crime prevention or control. She became passionate about exposing and challenging racial bias in the criminal justice system, ultimately launching and leading a major campaign against racial profiling by law enforcement known as the ‘DWB Campaign’ or ‘Driving While Black or Brown Campaign.’


5. A Mother of 3, the Stanford Law School & Vanderbilt University Graduate Was a Plaintiff’s Lawyer in Race & Gender Discrimination

In addition to her nonprofit advocacy experience, Alexander has worked as a litigator at private law firms including Saperstein, Goldstein, Demchak & Baller, in Oakland, California, where she specialized in plaintiff-side class-action lawsuits alleging race and gender discrimination.

Mother of three young children, Alexander is a graduate of Stanford Law School and Vanderbilt University. Following law school, she clerked for Justice Harry A. Blackmun on the U.S. Supreme Court and for Chief Judge Abner Mikva on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

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