The United States has the largest prison population in the world. But, until the publication of Michelle Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow,” in 2010, most people didn’t use the term “mass incarceration,” or consider the practice a social-justice issue. Alexander argued that the increasing imprisonment of Black and brown men—through rising arrest rates and longer sentences—was not merely a response to crime but a system of racial control. “The drug war was in part a politically motivated strategy, a backlash to the civil-rights movement, but it was also a reflection of conscious and unconscious biases fuelled by media portrayals of drug users,” Alexander tells David Remnick. “Those racial stereotypes were resonant of the same stereotypes of slaves and folks during the Jim Crow era.” Plus, a conversation with Reginald Dwayne Betts, who discovered poetry while in solitary confinement, during a prison sentence for a carjacking that he committed when he was sixteen. Betts reads a poem, which appears in his collection “Felon,” about trying to explain to his young son that he has served time in prison.
Aimee Mann Live, with Atul Gawande
Aimee Mann, the celebrated Los Angeles singer and songwriter, recently released an album called “Queens of the Summer Hotel.” The album was inspired in part by Susanna Kaysen’s best-selling memoir “Girl, Interrupted,” about Kaysen’s time in a psychiatric hospital. Mann sat down with Atul Gawande at The New Yorker Festival to talk about the new album, the lessons of living through a pandemic, and how liberated she felt when she broke her ties with major record labels. “When you’re at a record label and you’re trying to ascertain whether something can be a hit or a single, you listen in a different way—and then everything sounds like garbage,” she said. Mann decided that she didn’t “want to keep baring my soul to people who hate everything I’m doing.”
Dave Grohl’s Tales of Life and Music
At The New Yorker Festival, Dave Grohl talked with Kelefa Sanneh about Grohl’s new book, “The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music.” Grohl, who was the drummer for Nirvana and then the frontman of the Foo Fighters, recalls his earliest experiences of taking music seriously—harmonizing with his mom to Carly Simon on the car radio. Grohl also talks about what it was like to collaborate with Kurt Cobain, who was known for his capricious genius, and about stepping out from behind the drums to lead his own band. “After Kurt died, I was, like, I’m not playing music anymore—it’s painful,” he remembers. “And then I eventually realized that if music saved my life, my entire life, this is what’s going to save my life again.”
Mexican Abortion Activists Mobilize to Aid Texans
Mexico is a deeply Catholic nation where abortion was, for a long time, criminalized in many states; just a few years ago Coahuilla, near the U.S. border, imposed jail time on women who had the procedure. This year, Stephania Taladrid reported, Mexico’s ten-member Supreme Court voted unanimously to deciminalize abortion throughout the country—to the shock even of activists. But before they had finished celebrating they turned their attention north, to Texas, which has practically banned most abortions with the S.B. 8 law, which is currently being reviewed by the Supreme Court. Texans may find themselves crossing the border to obtain legal abortions. Taladrid spoke to activists who are sending medications that induce abortion—which are available over the counter in Mexico—across the border into Texas. But they may face risk in doing so. As the legal scholar Jeannie Suk Gersen explains, a new Texas law criminalizes delivering those medications to pregnant women.
If Roe v. Wade Goes, What Next?
The Supreme Court, with a six-to-three majority of conservative justices, is hearing critical cases on abortion rights. If it approves restrictive state laws, large swaths of the country might quickly ban abortion. Jia Tolentino co-hosts a special episode on the future of abortion rights for Americans, which includes a discussion of the legal issues at stake and the doctrine of privacy that is now in jeopardy, and a visit to the Mississippi clinic at the center of one of the court cases.