Read prior to beginning the Michelle Alexander book. Besides a bit of overwrought prose, this is brilliantly researched and well-argued. Both books help to trace the long history and current crisis of systematic, institutional racism in the US, here most distressingly in our legal and prison systems. High on my list of books I wish everyone would read, especially those who really don't believe this is a problem.
“When white Americans frankly peel back the layers of our commingled pasts, we are all marked by it. Whether a company or an individual, we are marred either by our connections to the specific crimes and injuries of our fathers and their fathers. Or we are tainted by the failures of our fathers to fulfill our national credos when their courage was most needed. We are formed in molds twisted by the gifts we received at the expense of others. It is not our “fault.” But it is undeniably our inheritance.”