The New Jim Crow

The New Jim Crow Metaphors and Similes

Sun and Darkness (Metaphor)

Alexander uses the metaphor of sunshine (as the state of affairs after Emancipation and in the heady early days of Reconstruction) and darkness (as the end of Reconstruction and the passage of the Jim Crow laws) to show how the brief and hopeful time quickly faded away (20).

Four Horsemen (Simile)

Alexander quotes historian David Kennedy to emphasize the apocalyptic impact of crack cocaine: "[crack] blew through America's poor black neighborhoods like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" (51).

War (Metaphor)

One of the most potent metaphors is that of war. Politicians and government officials claim they are fighting a "war" on drugs, allowing them to yoke the connotations of enemies, fighting, struggle, and victors and losers in order to cast their misguided, biased, and cruel task in a positive light.

Closed Doors (Metaphor)

Alexander often says things like, "It closed the courthouse doors to claims of racial bias in sentencing" (111). The metaphor of closed doors is apt because while doors may literally be closed in terms of suits not able to proceed, the image of a closed door captures the futility of the quest for racial justice.

Minefield (Metaphor)

"These bureaucratic minefields are the modern-day equivalent of poll taxes and literacy tests - 'colorblind' rules designed to make voting a practical impossibility for a group largely defined by race" (159). The metaphor of a minefield makes it clear that ex-offenders have many obstacles in their way to achieving any sort of meaningful citizenship.

Birdcage (Metaphor)

Alexander quotes the birdcage metaphor of theorist Iris Marion Young: "If one thinks about racism by examining only one wire of the cage, or one form of disadvantage, it is difficult to understand how and why the bird is trapped. Only a large number of wires arranged in a specific way, and connected to one another serve to enclose the bird and to ensure that it cannot escape" (184). This helps the reader understand why all the forces that discriminate against the undercaste operate together.