Can America Enslave Blacks… Again?

So, yesterday I’m reading about how the producers of Game of Thrones have a new series in the works called Confederate. The central theme of this new show is that the south was successful in seceding from the union and blacks are still enslaved today. Like right now. Immediately disgusted by the idea, it was quickly replaced by another even more disturbing question: Can blacks be enslaved in America… again? As outlandish as it seems, I found myself answering this question in the affirmative. Yes, it is entirely possible to find ourselves in physical bondage at the whim of white supremacy once again.

Straightaway, I Googled my question: “Can America Enslave Black People Again” and was surprised to find that others were wondering the same thing. I even found that Tavis Smiley had already shared similar thoughts on the topic and couldn’t deny that as unlikely as (we all hope) it is, it’s completely possible that something like this could happen.

Hear me out, because I’m not crazy neither am I joking. No, I’m not sounding an alarm to further my back to Africa agenda. But this is something that I believe we all need to keep in mind. And it certainly does help frame this agenda in a way that we need to give critical thought to even if we dismiss it. While it may be a bit far-fetched– and I fully admit that it is– let’s not act like it’s not at least possible.

So let’s unpack this just a bit.

Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash

How Slavery Could Happen Again

The 13th Amendment Stands As Is

My mind running wild at this point, I began to think of scenarios where the enslavement of an entire group of people could actually happen. I thought about how the 13th Amendment of our constitution never actually abolished slavery. There’s always been a loophole there and it’s not like it isn’t currently being used over and over and over again today, in 2017. The loophole essentially states that slavery is abolished UNLESS someone commits a crime and then all bets are off. Too detailed to go into here, I’ll just say that if you haven’t already watched the documentary 13th, you need to do so in the next 48 hours. Seriously, it’s just that important and you shouldn’t put it off any longer.

Why was the amendment written this way? And why after so many years has it never been changed? Why is it being used today to make profits for private prisons yet so few people seem to be aware or care?

So, I’m thinking of all of this and then I start thinking about how the Japanese were interned right here in America during WWII. How more than 100,000 men, women and children were marched into internment camps merely because they were Japanese.

Hmmm, internment camps. Well, we have private prisons now. Prisons with plenty of space and beds to fill. Prisons that were built to house people against their will for profit. Prisons that need a constant flow of new residents in order to meet their bottom lines and make their shareholders happy.

You may say, “Yeah, but those are for criminals, not black people at large.” Okay, fair enough, but what about the disproportionate number of black bodies currently locked up for non-violent crimes? Or those even locked away for marijuana use or sale even though marijuana is slowly being legalized for medical and recreational use across the country? It would appear that our government is not playing when it comes to incarcerating black people, right? Also seems like it’s not too hard to do if they really want to do so. Study after study has shown that our neighborhoods are overly-policed and that black people caught up in the criminal justice system are given stiffer sentences for the same crimes that many whites get a slap on the wrist for. Why, just this week, I read where Oregon just passed a bill that reduces possession of powdered cocaine, heroin and meth to a misdemeanor instead of felony possession. That first-time offenders, if the bill is passed, are to receive treatment for substance abuse in lieu of jail time. In case you don’t know, Oregon has a largely white population and all of the drugs named are historically linked to white users. If this bill passes in Oregon, don’t look for similar legislation to find its way to more urban (read black) landscapes.

Simply put, when America’s slaveholding forefathers wrote the 13th amendment, they appear to have done so in a very deliberate way that allows them to reinstitute slavery at any given time. So far, we’ve watched America target blacks for mass incarceration and most people have just accepted that blacks have a higher propensity toward crime and deserve to be locked up. WE may know better, but I’m talking about the broader society who appears to be clueless about what’s happening right under their noses.

Are They’re Itching For a Fight?

Now, since I was a kid I’ve been hearing about this scary race war that’s supposed to happen at some point in the future. I’ve never taken that sort of thing seriously as I’ve always lived around white people and, for the most part, done so harmoniously. Sure, I’m very well-acquainted with institutionalized white supremacy and I have experienced my own personal accounts of racism, but in one-on-one interactions– for the most part– I’ve just never feared a mass riot breaking out with blacks on one side and whites on the other.

Until Trump took the White House.

This administration has worked overtime to stoke racialized fear and division. I make no mistake in thinking that his brand of bigots weren’t present in America all along or that individual bigotry was a thing of the past, but every one of you reading this know, as do I, that these people have been emboldened by Trump’s election and some of them are ready to set it off. For the first time in my life, I can see that a race war is possible under the right circumstances. It pains me to even type that, but it’s true.

Now, if something like that were to jump off, whose side would our militarized police force be on? Even in more liberal jurisdictions, some may even want to place blacks under “protective custody” since we are outnumbered (and outgunned). What would that so-called protective custody look like? Where would black people be placed for their own protection and for how long?

Yes, my mind was having a field day with “what if” scenarios, but logically speaking I can’t say that this sort of thing could never happen. Can you? Especially not when the NRA promotes videos like this one just released in June of 2017:

If that’s not a call to arms, I don’t know what is! This video incites violence and fear while placing a target on the back of every single person currently protesting white supremacy in this country. The NRA is literally saying, “let’s do this”.

America is Not Above Slavery

We know this because we’re here. It’s not like we stand on some sort of moral highground where the thought would never enter the U.S. government’s collective mind to enslave an entire group of people. Reading this, you may say, “Yes, but we’re American citizens now.” Jews in Nazi Germany were once German citizens. Many of the Japanese placed in internment camps here were also American citizens. And, honestly, if colonists traveled across the Atlantic to capture and purchase people to create a proletariat class way back in the 1600s, I can’t say with confidence that the descendants of the governments who supported this wouldn’t seek to collect descendants of those same people who are now right here on American soil. Easy pickings. I don’t even need to rant on this one because we all know that when it comes to slavery America having been there and done that is definitely about that life. Moving on…

The Institution Likes the Idea

When we talk about institutional racism, white supremacy and oppression, we are not merely talking about the Constitution or even a series of laws. Beyond government, the institution includes the media, our educational systems, religion and so on. As far as the media goes, most of us know that we’re already subjected to a corporate run news media that works more in its own interest over being fair, unbiased and for the people. And the Game of Thrones’ producers are not the only ones exploring dystopian fantasies of bondage and oppression. Amazon already airs its own version called The Man in the High Castle. In this series, Hitler won the war and is still in power in the early 1960s. Hulu even has an original series called The Handmaid’s Tale where a deeply disturbing and fundamentalist religious government rules the modern-day lives of everyday people through the capture and enslavement of those who oppose its ideals about morality and family.

In the south, controversies over the scrubbing and twisting of American history are nothing new. In fact, some of them are quite recent. One that immediately comes to mind is the debate over textbooks in Texas just a couple of years ago. Bent on teaching children that America’s chattel slavery was nothing more than a side issue of the Civil War, the institution takes pleasure in making its version of historical events THE version of historical events.

When it comes to religion, the institution fancies itself evangelical Christian and goes out of its way at times to paint other religions, mainly Islam (for now), in a bad light. Casting aspersions on people’s religions isn’t akin to enslavement, but bear in mind that it’s all about power, control and making a single religion the only one recognized and respected while all others be damned. In so doing, it makes it easier to justify to the masses why certain things must be done.

Remember how America “civilized” the native people already living here by placing their children in boarding schools (sometimes taking them by force) and seeking to “kill the Indian to save the man”? In other words, to force English, Christianity and a white-centric culture upon them in order to completely disconnect them from their deep cultural roots. And let’s not forget how indigenous African religions were maligned as being inherently evil and how our ancestors were eventually converted to Christianity once brought to these shores. I don’t know a whole lot about Voodoo, but I do know that much of its root comes from West Africa. But the mere mention of the word frightens many blacks today as they believe what their master’s taught them. That is, that Voodoo is the devil’s religion.

I’m getting a bit off subject here… excuse me. What I’m trying to say is that the institution favors media, education and religion as tools of control, power and subjugation. When we talk about slavery as an institution– when we talk about institutional racism– let’s remember that the institution likes controlling people. It likes oppressing anything in opposition to its narrative or its agenda. The institution goes along with the institution and if the institution says slavery is back on– guess what?

White People Wouldn’t Stop Slavery From Happening

After realizing that it is possible for America to at least try to re-enslave black people, I thought about our numbers. Being barely 13% of the population, we know that are the minority. Wanting to look for the best in people, my next thought was that many in white America wouldn’t stand for it. Definitely not liberals and progressives. Heck, I know a whole lot of white conservatives who wouldn’t be down with it either. Together, fighting beside us, we’d be able to stop this from happening, right? Not so fast, my friends!

My next thoughts were about how many whites, even the most well-intentioned ones, are still so fragile when it comes to the topic of race and white supremacy. I thought about the colorblind ones who “don’t see color” and, by default, don’t see our struggle. I thought about the ones who look for every alternative explanation in the book to explain white supremacy away when we call it out. For example, just recently I watched a video of a 9 year-old boy walking down the street in his neighborhood when an officer stops him, asks where he lives and after the boy points in the direction of his home, the officer tells the boy to put his hands behind his back and that he’s detaining him for the boy’s own protection as well as the officer’s. You can watch the video here if you like.

The video is hard enough to watch on its own, but I was shocked when I stumbled upon a comment by one white woman who said that the since the little boy was walking in the street after dark (it’s clearly still light in the video), the police officer was only protecting him. Some people have such a white-washed view of law enforcement and this system-at-large until they cannot fathom an officer doing anything but helping a 9 year-old boy despite seeing the boy handcuffed, placed in a car and then having to watch his mother be arrested for protesting his detainment!

Some. People. Just. Don’t. Get. It. And they’d rather argue with us and close their minds than admit that we do!

And I’m not even angry with them (in fact, I’m working on a project now to help white people learn how to identify and fight against white supremacy), because I understand that they’ve been hoodwinked and bamboozled, too. I get that being “inside” of white supremacy, they’ve never been forced to examine it from without. And, as such, most are ill-equipped to confront it without undergoing some serious self-examination and an examination of the worlds where they come from first. But being that they’re so inexperienced in identifying racism/white supremacy… and seeing that they have never had to confront the system (many can’t even find the courage to confront their own family members, co-workers and friends about their bigotry, yet)… I can’t allow myself to believe that many of these people wouldn’t find some way to justify a government’s “mass roundup” of black people!

Even the ones who would be outraged and who we know DO stand up and speak out against racism in the here and now– I’m talking about the Tim Wises, Robin DiAngelos and Jane Elliotts of the world– they really don’t mobilize people enough now to even cause a dent in racism/white supremacy. This isn’t dissing the fine work that they do, but this is just fact. As it relates to white supremacy we are talking about a behemoth, after all. How many of those who buy books and attend the lectures of the aforementioned would really take to the streets if their lives were threatened and they were told to stay home or else? If their families, out of fear, urged them not to keep pressing the system? And how many would try to explain away their reasons for being silent like the woman who hated to see the young boy handcuffed and placed in the back of a car, but at the same time believed that this was necessary for the boy’s protection?

Tell Me I’m Crazy

Remember, I’m not saying that this IS going to happen. I’m merely stating that it COULD happen. I feel like we’re very strong people and that God is definitely on our side. And at the same time, I feel like we’re in a very fragile position here in America. Given what we know about our history and how the institution has always, every single day, worked against us, the more that I think about all of this, the more I’m convinced that under the right circumstances, we could be introduced to slavery again. These militarized police and private prisons haven’t been funded and staffed for nothing.

So, tell me I’m just being paranoid. Tell me that this sort of thing could never happen in America. Tell me that I’m thinking too deeply and have allowed my imagination to get the best of me. Tell me that none of the preceding rings true with you. Just don’t forget to tell me your thoughts about America possibly enslaving black people again in the comments section below.

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