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Michelle Alexander names three audiences whom she intends to reach and inform with her book. The first is composed of people who care profoundly about racial justice but who do not yet realize the enormous crisis of mass incarceration of people of color. The second is composed of the people who recognize a trend in the criminal justice system that resembles the racism of decades ago but who do not have the facts to back their beliefs. Last of all, she hopes to reach the many people incarcerated in the American prison system. She then uses an anecdote to explain her main point, that the US incarceration system continues the racial discrimination evident in our country's history.
Jarvious Cotton's great-great grandfather was unable to vote because he was a slave. Cotton's great grandfather was killed by the Ku Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather did not vote because of the KKK's threats. Cotton's father could not vote because of poll taxes and literacy tests. And, finally, Cotton cannot vote because he was once convicted as a felon. Alexander explains that voting is the most basic democratic freedom and right, yet black people throughout US history have been unable to hold or else exercise that right. Furthermore, racial discrimination continues today in a legalized form because once-convicted felons are legally required to explain their background and may be legally refused service or opportunities because of it. While the reasons and rationalizations that have been used to support racial exclusion and discrimination have changed over the years, the outcome is mostly the same.
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