The Thirteenth Amending

End Slavery in America Now! [No, seriously]

Hey, Lincoln, does it look like she is fooling around. End the whole thing completely.
Hey, Lincoln, Congress, does it look like she is fooling around? Keep going America and End Slavery, the whole thing, every last scrap, or she is coming for your money starting with the $20. [coutesy of EndtheException]

That entire system of slavery that formed after 1865 was euphemistically called “sharecropping.” It was in actuality slavecropping. Swapping out the names did not swap out the practices. Instead, it codified them. Like in the Texas laws written right after the Civil War ended: Any blacks out on the streets after curfew, jail. Jail puts you on the chain gangs, working the fields for free, building the roads and railroads for free. Those practices existed because of one major reason. One giant loophole that still allows the practice of slavery to continue in an “out-of-sight out-of-mind” way.

Black Americans worked the land for others and turned over most of their crop to get out of “debt,” after 1865. They were hunted down and lynched at the smallest accusation simply to terrorize them into silence and political and moral submission, keeping them locked into the land by work and debt. The violent murdering never had jury trials of the group of whites who killed them until 1981 when the first “lynching” trial occurred.

The modern documentary, 15 minutes long though it feels like hours, “Lynching Postcards: Token of a Great Day,” brings home the atrocity of this period dark period of white brutality in American history. Whites in the south in particular had thrown out both the local law and the biblical law [“Thou shall not kill”], and murdered black Americans with complete immunity as the whole of the federal government stood by for decades and watched. The U.S. Congress couldn’t fully pass a simple anti-lynching bill for over a hundred years after the House passed the first one in 1917 by a vast majority. The Senate, as usual, buried it.

Think about it. Two hundred anti-lynching bills since for over 105 years until now. All these anti-lynching bill says the same thing: It’s a crime to murder black Americans. Americans. Think about it. The goddamn White Congressmen and White Senators cannot even make an overwhelmingly simple moral statement that makes it a crime to kill Americans!!

Americans, black Americans in particular, who were singled out by mobs and hanged or mutilated for political purposes. For the sole political purpose of intimating them to not vote, to crush their voice out, deny their place in the political establishment that is America, that is democracy. That can’t even say “Thou shall not kill.” It should be a no-brainer. But for these Senators for over a hundred years they faced this moral dilemma and froze. Not out of fear. But out of bigotry, hatred toward black Americans, supremacy. And that Supremacy was allowed, or “structured,” to continue by “victorious” Americans (Union troops, Northerners). They completely had the upper hand at the end of the Civil War.

Yet it was they who could not let go of the idea fully that blacks should not be enslaved in any way, they who allowed this clause. They, the Northerners, the victors, could NOT bring themselves to see slavery of blacks completely abolished. There is no grey area. It is an all or nothing proposition. There is no moral negotiation to ending slavery: it is either immoral or it isn’t. There’s no cake and eating, too.

So, they kept open pandora’s box. And look what we got. Children enslaved on chain gangs, arrested for the smallest accusation, then leased out for money, for profit, to work on farms and roads. Not just children, but black men primarily, and women, too. And over time, the idea of the “black man” on the lose morphed into Hillary Clinton’s “super predator” description of the animal black man who deserved to be in prisoned, and, in short, enslaved.

Because imprisoned black men are seen as stripped of their basic humanity, their basic dignity. And because of that image creation, continually promoted by white politicians in one form or another, since the end of slavery to today, actual slavery has been allowed to continue, based on this clause. That’s what I missed and why I focus on the “lowest” rung in America. Because those that are dehumanized are not done so by accident, but on purpose. Their labor still worth about $14 billion dollars today, almost none of which they get.

***

The Thirteenth amendment should one hundred percent be changed to get rid of slavery. To be in line with our constitutional foundational values that every life is valued, is equal. Instead, it is a part of history not dead, not in the past. It is still being used in American prisons for that purpose, to get free labor from black prisoners. That’s slavery was before it was abolished at any rate: black prisoners forced to work for free.

I admit I didn’t fully understand this amendment, or partly even, until I watched the “13th” about the thirteenth Amendment documentary (2016) on Netflix by Ava DuVernay, the filmmaker who should have won best director for the MLK film Selma. The power and strength of it shook me, and so I watched Selma after it.

Yet the full weight of that documentary hit me only now: Slavery exists in the United States. And in the original form it was created in. And it is constitutionally allowed. So, I tried to verify that slavery was alive by using the quickest but not the best modern method, Google. Yep, it exists. I looked down at the bottom of one the websites to see it was a real organization that was petitioning to end it. Yep, it’s real. (I’ve no reason yet to doubt the veracity of this site.) It has numerous backers, many prominent organizations and some universities signed on it, from the ACLU to Amnesty International, to EJI, to a university near me I’ve visited, St. Thomas. So, if all these prominent “liberal” funded organizations signed on to ending slavery, why can’t it be “easily” ended? Should be a “no-brainer” right?

***

Well, the quick and easy answer is “huh?” Or “Well, that’s not really slavery.” But the real answer should be, “While I was aware of the issue, I admittedly missed the depth of depravity embedded in it.” At least that is what just hit me. Like lynching, it too is so simple to pass since slavery has thoroughly been repudiated right?

The creation of the “black American prisoner-slave” reveals an intention embedded in the clause of the 13th amendment to allow the basic atrocity of slavery to continue to exist in some legal form that violates the basic inalienable rights promised in the founding document of our country. In other words, the 13th amendment’s creators violated democracy itself. Its creation is a clear signal of some massive compromise to the white supremacist not to eliminate slavery entirely.

And that alone indicates an incipient evil worth destroying.

We might have forgotten about this clause entirely, and accepted it as a part of forgotten history, had the evil implementation of this clause not been so thoroughly exploited by supremacists and compounded by the selling of it by politicians, who allowed it to continue. What I mean is that the clause allowed slavery to continue, “just in case” things got out of control. And by out of control, I mean in case blacks became “too equal.”

Which they did, and rapidly, too. As the EJI project put it, “By 1868, over 80 percent of Black men who were eligible to vote had registered, schools for Black children became a priority, and courageous Black leaders overcame enormous obstacles to win elections to public office.” 80 percent. 80 percent is a massive change and an existential threat to Southern whites who didn’t expect to lose the war and have their new nation taken away, to lose their families, but also to have the whole power structure suddenly inverted. This held most true for remaining aristocratic plantation owners, the 200 families that controlled all the South. Blacks taking power through voting meant losing their wealth because they lost their power, their influence over the law, the creation of new laws, the destruction of old ones.

This clause in the 13th allowed for the implementation of modern white supremacy to continue. It allowed for the treatment of blacks as slaves to continue, in some form. And that “allowance” is the evil that must be destroyed. Democracy, if it fully existed, for it to fully exist, must not allow any law or clause to stand that fundamentally opposes it. This clause in the 13th amendment does. And that clause allows for the monstrous practices of slavery to continue, profitably, to this day.

***

End slavery now. It should be an extremely basic proposition for every black American to get behind, or at least the 88 percent who voted for Biden and many who didn’t vote at all. It should be basic enough that at least 25% of whites get behind it. It should be basic enough to embarrass “the middle” 50% of whites to get behind, the way MLK embarrassed whites in Selma by reflecting on TV their own brutality within them when they saw white cops brutally beat down unarmed black Americans, respectfully dressed, not raising a hand to defend themselves. He showed those eating their TV dinners in the West, Northeast, and Midwest the horror of a group of whites, “their own” by skin color at least, which dared them to see themselves, their own whiteness, in those criminal white Southern cops. (If you do the math, that leaves 25% of whiters I don’t have any hope for or care to reach to on the far right.)

***

MLK in essence asked the country, “Is this what whiteness is, brutal violent police savagely with no provocation beating down respectful black Americans just acting peacefully, defenselessly, walking to register to vote?” We are a dignified people, us black Americans, he said. You, you whites, I’m not so sure about you.

But who do we have today provoking us from this slumber of slavery that still actually exists? For sure no whites, but one prominent 2022 “black American” demonstration showing a nation instead getting entertainingly enraged by a rich black American actor slapping a black American comedian at an award show. Two vastly powerful people not using their platform to stop the show, stand shoulder to shoulder, and look straight into the camera and say, “Joe Biden, we are stopping this Oscar show right now. Right now, to say, “End Slavery. Do it now. Do it for all America’s past mistakes. Do it for basic human dignity. For democracy. We can only let the show go on when you stop allowing slavery.”

That, that would have been the real slap in the face needed to wake white American liberals up. Woke? I didn’t see anyone getting woke from that real slap.

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Bren Kelly

Bren Kelly

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Engaged in new Ideas and old Inequalities, putting the system back into systemic, born on the 50th Anniversary of Women's Lib Day, still seeking injustices.