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Author to address racial injustice

| Thursday, January 15, 2015

Michelle Alexander, acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, legal scholar and bestselling author will speak at Saint Mary’s on Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. in O’Laughlin Auditorium. Her lecture, titled “Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” will be based off her book “The New Jim Crow,” discussing racial injustice in the American legal system.

Alexander has taught at universities such as Stanford Law School, where she was an associate professor of law and directed the Civil Rights Clinics, according to a press release. 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, where she is now an associate professor. That same year she won a Soros Justice Fellowship, which supported the writing of “The New Jim Crow.”

“We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it,” Alexander said in a press release. She criticized the “war on drugs” and said when prisoners leave jail labeled as felons they become trapped in a cycle of discrimination preventing them from improving their lives by finding a job, housing or health benefits.

In her book, she analyzes the criminal justice system from racial and ethical standpoints and proposes ideas to combat what she calls an epidemic.

Elaine Meyer-Lee, director of the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership (CWIL) at Saint Mary’s, said Alexander’s lecture comes at a critical time in America.

“We look forward to hearing Michelle Alexander’s very timely perspectives on these critical issues of race in our justice system with which our nation is so actively wrestling,” Meyer-Lee said. “Bringing such speakers is part of our institution’s commitment, as outlined in Saint Mary’s strategic plan ‘Boldly Forward’ to be a ‘college where students learn to live, study and work with intercultural awareness and competence.’”

Mana Derakhshani, associate director of CWIL, said awareness of the systemic racial issues is important because students have the power to change it.

“Michelle Alexander’s research points out the racialization of the criminal system as well as at the unconscious biases that we all carry,” Derakhshani said. “It is important for students and everyone to understand we do not live in a post-racial era and that in spite of the advances made through the Civil Rights movement, there are still many ways that systems are keeping our society very stratified.”

The lecture is free and open to the public, but due to anticipated high demand it will be ticketed. Tickets may be reserved by calling the Moreau Box Office.

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About Kiera Johnsen

A SoCal native majoring in communications and political science

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