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Can Truth be the Final Word? - Reactions to "Race & Caste in the U.S." by Michelle Alexander

The Unknown's picture

            I appreciate how Michelle Alexander talks about the importance of learning about the truth, about discovering the roots and complexities of race and class issues in particular, but I question whether there is one eternal truth. Whose truth? Can’t there be more than one right answer or account of an event? Is there a way for one’s sociopolitical background to affect his or her or their account of what happened and it still be the “truth?” Is it possible to embrace all of these truths equally and not disregard them?

            I was interested in the way she explored why people ignore the truth. Sometimes people do not confront the truth not simply because they are not concerned with others’ well-being, but because these huge, social problems often seem unsolvable.

            She also discussed the image of African Americans as criminals and how part of the reason for this is that the success, courage, and strength of the victimized, marginalized, and oppressed is rarely discussed, remembered, or recorded.

            I appreciate that she gives us a task, so the readers do not feel hopeless and lost about what the next step is. Michelle Alexander constantly calls us to action: “Let’s take one more step into the river, the river of truth, of love, of courage, of justice, the river that has run through it all” (Alexander 2).

            Even though I have been told that little has changed in-terms of racial equality or inequality, especially for many young, black men, I was still shocked by the fact that black people are being killed at nearly the same rate as they were in the beginning of the 20th century.

            It’s interesting that when many talk about internalized racism, they often speak about minorities, victims, the oppressed, but everyone has become accustomed and perpetuates the same stereotypes, discriminates in job settings, and judges and treats people differently depending on his, her, or their skin color.

            A particularly intense part was when she spoke about judgment and how people assume and have a strong belief that because someone went to prison he/ she/ they do not deserve attention, love, and help.

            I thought this was one of the most beautiful and powerful lines: “We must be willing to step out and catch the stones that are raining down on the most vulnerable, and we must be willing to stand up to the stone throwers and disarm them” (Alexander 3).

            Alexander also discusses the failures of the prison system. Not only are people branded with joblessness and insecurity when they leave prison, but they are not given any resources or opportunities.