I have something for you.
In June of 2010, I wrote in this space about a book, The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander, which I called a "troubling and profoundly necessary" work. Alexander promulgated an explosive argument. Namely, that the so-called "War on Drugs" amounts to a war on African-American men and, more to the point, to a racial caste system nearly as restrictive, oppressive and omnipresent as Jim Crow itself.
This because, although white Americans are far and away the nations biggest dealers and users of illegal drugs, African Americans are far and away the ones most likely to be jailed for drug crimes. And when they are set free after doing their time, black men enter a legal purgatory where the right to vote, work, go to school or rent an apartment can be legally denied. Its as if George Wallace were still standing in the schoolhouse door.
The New Jim Crow won several awards, enjoyed significant media attention, and was an apparent catalyst in the NAACPs decision last year to call for an end to the drug war. The book was a sensation, but we need it to be more. We need it to be a movement.
As it happens and not exactly by coincidence, Alexanders book is being reissued in paperback this week as we mark the birthday of the man who led Americas greatest mass movement for social justice. In his battle against the original Jim Crow, Martin Luther King, in a sense, did what Alexander seeks to do: pour sunlight on an onerous condition that exists just beyond the periphery of most Americans sight.
I want to help her do that. So heres the deal. Ill give you a copy of the book autographed by the author, no less free of charge. You dont even have to pay for shipping. All you have to do is tell me you want it and promise me youll read it.
In fact, make that the subject line of the email you send to request your copy: I want it. Ill read it. Send it to email@example.com. Make sure to include your contact information and mailing address. At months end, Ill draw 50 names from a bucket and send out 50 books. If you work for the company that syndicates my column, or a newspaper that runs it, you cant participate. The same goes if youre my kin or my friend.
On March 15, Alexander has agreed to appear with me at Books & Books in Coral Gables, where I will moderate a discussion with an audience. Youll also be able to submit questions via Twitter @MiamiHeraldLive and Facebook. Video from the event will be posted on The Miami Heralds website (www.miamiherald.com).
And here, let me make one thing clear. This giveaway is underwritten neither by my employer nor by Alexanders publisher. Me, myself and I will pay for both books and shipping. I chose to do it that way in order to impress upon you how vital I personally feel it is that you read this book.
No, I have no financial interest in its success. I do, however, have tremendous emotional interest. Half a century ago, Martin Luther King and a cadre of courageous idealists made a sustained appeal to this nations misplaced sense of justice, forced Americans to see an outrage that was right in front of them yet, somehow, beyond their line of sight.
There could be no better homage to his memory than to do that again.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33132. Readers may write to him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. He chats with readers every Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. EDT at Ask Leonard.