The Thirteenth Amendment has always been viewed as a good thing. The Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime, according to Wikipedia. Most would think this is a good thing. However, the Netflix film, 13th, proves how this amendment simply justifies modern day slavery.
Although slaves were freed, many Blacks were quickly jailed for small crimes like loitering. People needed the black folks to rebuild the south after the Civil War, but the only way to legally do so was to criminalize them. In the prison systems now, 37.8% are Blacks; most of which were convicted of drug related crimes according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The United States withholds 5% of the world’s population. Of this 5%, 25% are imprisoned, according to The Foghorn at the University of San Francisco. In 1971, Richard Nixon proposed a war on drugs. He claimed that America’s number one enemy was drug abuse, but in reality, this was just meant to target black people. “You want to know what this was really about?” said John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s chief domestic adviser. “In 1968, The Nixon campaign and the White House after that had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrests their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
After Nixon was Ronald Reagan, who put a literal spin on the “war on drugs”. While Regan was in office the number of nonviolent drug offenses increased from 50,000 to 400,000 within seventeen years. Later in 1994, Bill Clinton passed the three-strikes law. This imprisoned people who were mostly Black, even for non-violent crimes.
Aside from a history of presidents passing bills and laws that seem to target Blacks is a thing called prison labor. This is where prisoners are working for big companies like Victoria’s Secret and only being paid twelve cents an hour. So that cute lil’ lace bra you have back home? That was probably made by some prisoner.
Being criminalized doesn’t end with prison labor, but once you are a convicted felon you lose your rights as an American citizen. You lose your voting rights, jury service, certain employment, parental benefits, public social and housing benefits, the right to bear arms, and traveling abroad. So let me ask you this. If you convict someone of a felony and release them, how do you expect them to operate effectively as a citizen? They can’t even get a house or reap government assistance. Therefore, they resort back to what they know- quick money, AKA, the selling of drugs.
If the system is set up to invade the poor Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, allows you to be convicted even if not guilty, and declares you a felon and takes away your rights, then the Thirteenth Amendment is really just the justification for modern day slavery.
But do one thing for me. Go watch 13th on Netflix to get the real out punching and saddening reality of the Black American.