Friday, August 1, 2008

Imprisonment, Part 2

Douglas Blackmon wrote a book called "Slavery By Another Name". It's a book everyone in America should read.

Slavery was abolished by the Civil War, right? When the Yankees beat the Confederates, slavery was abolished. Blacks were free and though they knew it would be a long road to equality between the races, they were free. Right? Well as it turns out, not everyone got on that road. The slave system was re-invented, given a new name and practiced, legally, up until World War II. Unable to have slaves, the businessmen and law enforcement of the South teamed up. African Americans were arrested for any thing that could be thought of - such as vagrancy, meaning they did not have a job (how many people could be arrested for that in 2008?) - and fined large sums which they could not pay back. Their sentence: labor to pay back those fines, and the prisons then sold them to the mine owners, steel mills, etc. So the law enforcement arrested people for no reason and sold them to the industrialists for cheap labor.

"Legal" servitude - Another Name for Slavery.

Apparently, the only real reason it was ended at WWII was because the American government was wary of Nazi Germany and the Axis Allies. You couldn't have the enemy using America's poor treatment of its own citizens as propaganda against us. We were supposed to be freeing the people of Europe, so I guess we better free our own imprisoned people first. I guess.

It took foreign criticism to finally end the legalized practice of slavery in the United States of America.

There were some poor whites who were caught up in this system, but the majority were the supposedly freed blacks. A link to the book can be found on my links list on the right. And here is a link to an op-ed piece about the book from Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Leonard Pitts:,0,5821420.story.
For typical Internet ignorance, read some of the comments after that piece. It shows that attitudes toward others have not changed much. Skin color makes some people very angry.

But they don't seem to understand the history of our nation. The exploitation of the past made us very wealthy and it explains our current situations. And it is still happening today. The racial ratio of prisoners is one piece of evidence.

But more important to today is if you look at who is being exploited now, it is people with power (and money) exploiting those without power (and money). Color doesn't matter as much any more. Just don't be poor and without social connections. But because of the history, if you are poor, without the right connections and happen to be black, you are probably dealing with even more limitations.

So if the wealth divide is growing larger, why do people want to continue racial disputes and arguments? We need to get over color and move on to fair. Not to mention justice.

Is film relevant on issues like this? How do Bergman's films about faith in God and in family relate to racial and economic slavery in the real world? Next I'll look at a film and a story with more direct relevance to the issue.

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