Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Alabama to Dead Slaves: Dead One's We're Sorry, Alive One's Ignored

The Alabama Legislature passed a resolution today (Friday, 5/25/2007) apologizing for its role in slavery and expressing its "profound regret" for its role in causing the effects of slavery on America

The House resolution draft read in part that Alabama acknowledges "that slavery as an American 'Institution' was a wrong committed upon millions of Black Americans and that their ancestors [sic] are the beneficiaries of such wrongs..."; the resolution apparently intended to recognize the descendants of slaves, and is puzzling in its use of the word "beneficiaries". Nonetheless, the resolution passed the upper house by a party line vote almost without Republican support; Alabama's Republican governor, Bob Riley, has indicated he will gladly sign the resolution when it reaches him.

One Republican senator, Arthur Orr of Decatur, abstained because he feared that the resolution would be used as a foothold for legal demands for reparations. Another Republican, Scott Beason of Gardendale, chastised the vote as a useless expression. "This is the kind of thing we need to let go of," Beason explained. "There's no one alive today who owned a slave. There's no one alive who was a slave. It's time to move forward."

Contrary to Senator Beason's denial, a system of slavery remains today. The programmatic monitoring, searching, seizing, arresting and jailing of African American men is the contemporary version of slavery. Slavery by name is illegal, but its methods find expression in the criminal justice system today. The "trade" is generated by the so-called "war on crime" and the "war on drugs". An article by Erick Eckholm in the 3/20/2006 edition of the New York Times cites statistical studies that indicate that in 2004, 21 percent of black men who did not attend college were in prison or jail. Furthermore, as the article states, 6 in 10 black men who dropped out of school have been in or are currently in jail or prison. The rates for white and Hispanic men are far lower.

It is not that these boys and men are irredeemable. Some prove able to rise above their pasts. Joseph T. Jones of Baltimore is a former prisoner who escaped criminal ways and redirected his energies to job training, mentoring and education. Jones stated in Eckholm's article that "Many of these men grew up fatherless, and they never had good role models. No one around them knows how to navigate the mainstream society."

There is the rub. Young black men have are precious few entry points to "mainstream society", and the criminal justice system is the largest institutional gatekeeper. It filters boys into a system of detention where there is no opportunity for correction, nominal education, and no one to demonstrate how they should live, work and succeed. The system has no incentive to change as it is fueled by bureaucrats whose very livelihoods depend on justifying their own work; to cure the social ill would be to work themselves out of their jobs.

Most any criminal defense attorney or corrections officer can attest to the ingenuity and industry of prisoners. Their ability to adapt and, in many cases, thrive in the indescribably hostile environment of prison or jail would be hailed as virtuous and truly beneficiary if not for the conduct that lead to their incarceration. Geniuses and princes are locked away because of drug and property crimes and for crimes on persons that, were it not for the inhospitable worlds their families have been limited to for centuries, would more than likely not occur at all.

There is no excuse for criminal conduct. Poverty, hopelessness, lack of meaningful opportunity, hunger, addiction, disease and any number of other plights are ill fit as causes of crime. Yet, it remains that crime is monitored and punished among the urban and black populations. Studies have shown that blacks are punished more severely for the same crimes committed by white men, and are jailed more frequently without probation or parole and for longer sentences. More black men, as a percentage of the population and in raw numbers, are convicted of felonies. Consequently, they are unable to vote, bear arms or engage in the system that traps them. The prison is the new plantation. The African American man remains in the center of its grip, and the white American male remains at the head of the system that continues to apply the squeeze.

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5 comments on Alabama to Dead Slaves: Dead One's We're Sorry, Alive One's Ignored

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By GreatMinds on May 26, 2007 at 03:50 pm
Thanks for the review. I can see your point; if I communicated any intention to speak to coming to terms with slavery in Alabama, that was inadvertent. My thought was that the apology is insufficient; its opponents do not see a problem to be addressed now, and its supporters obviously believe that such a "feel-goodism" as this somehow redeems from past sins without even acknowledging the continuation of the very evil for which an apology was issued. It is my contention that the evil of slavery continues stronger than ever, sanctified by the criminal codes that are aimed at the 'niche' of African American males and perpetuated in the prison system itself. As long as these conditions not only prevail, but serve as an enthusiastically embraced bureaucratic proxy for the pre-14th Amendment agricultural slave market, apologies by Alabama's legislature or any other political arm are hollow and irrelevant. However weakly I stated the case, I hope this little 'addendum' underlines what I'm hoping to say. Again, thanks for the review!!!
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By El_Che on May 31, 2007 at 11:19 pm
I agree with your contention that the shadow of slavery is still part of the Deep South. In fact some of the early opponents to slavery were slave owners themselves, like Thomas Jefferson who was quoted as saying: “Where the disease [slavery] is most deeply seated, there it will be slowest in eradication. In the northern States, it was merely superficial and easily corrected. In the southern, it is incorporated with the whole system and requires time, patience, and perseverance in the curative process.” Though I deeply respect Thomas Jefferson I feel the he felt slavery was a disease because it dehumanized the slave owner. Slavery was an evil institution and in societies where the slave population outnumbered the owners, repression became the only vicious tool to ensure their subjugation. This was true in Greece, Rome and in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. This has always been the way that a small number of people can control a larger number of peoples. Reference:
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By GreatMinds on June 01, 2007 at 02:45 pm
El_Che, I did not exactly contend that the Deep South is particularly burdened with slavery's shadow; California is probably the leading modern "slaveowner", a term I'm using to stay consistent in the analogy. I don't find Jefferson's comparison very meaningful now. The Civil War, Reconstruction and the civil rights legislation and important Supreme Court decisions covering everything from education in Brown v. Wichita Board of Education to interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia were adequate rejoinders to socially ingrained, endemic injustices of inequality of substantive due process of law from a strictly "civil law" (as opposed to criminal law) perspective. That perspective, so dramatically and violently replayed now as a "Southern thing" in our classrooms and media, may have, indeed, by the late 1960's been rejected by most Americans in the Union states, but it was never, and is not today, a "Southern thing". Cases in point that current racism is a national issue, not even particularly "southern": 1. The Los Angeles Police Department went to great lengths yesterday to publicly review frame by frame and second-by-second tapes of radio calls, videotape, records, reviews and analyses of its May 1 response to violence during immigration protests. I take no position on the racism of the LAPD, but the consensus of those who are more seriously involved with the issue than myself is that the front line of the executive branch of California's largest city is racist. 2. Mortgage loans for Blacks and Latinos are more difficult to come by in Chicago than for whites of similar income brackets and credit scores, according to an October, 2002 article in the Chicago Tribune ("Mortgage OKs Tougher For Local Blacks, Latinos", Robert Manor, Oct 5, 2002; pg. 1). This keeps the black folks "at bay" while the "white flight" from the city continues (and, that latter phenomenon not a "Chicago thing" necessarily, either). If true as the article asserts, it also prevents them access to the number one builder of wealth in America -- home equity. 3. Joanne Pope Melish wrote a book entitled "Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and 'Race' in New England, 1780-1860" (Cornell University Press, 1998), in which she generously describes New England, according to a review of the book, as "a bastion of individual liberty, a place untrammelled by the legacies of slavery that bedevilled southern society". See, "Erasing Slavery: Memory, History, and Race in New England" Reviews in American History - Volume 27, Number 4, December 1999, pp. 526-533. Well, if that is true, why does Massachusetts have a governor's task force on hate crimes?? Or, is it any justice to respond that Bostonians love black people but hate "X group"?? Not so sure there's a difference in that distinction. 4. If the last point was a bit weak, then consider Kelo v. City of New London, where the Connecticut municipality was first given a green light by the Connecticut Supreme Court, then by the "left" wing of the US Supreme Court, to raze "blighted" urban neighborhoods in order to build new shopping centers. It may appear facially neutral, but ask the people in Susette Kelo's shoes if they feel particularly emancipated when a Macy's stands where their modest home once stood. Connecticut preferred the large corporate interests over the rights of individual property owners, and not only created but pursued an argument that won the day which puts minority homeowners in economically depressed areas at particular risk. These arguments were made in Kelo, and the city of New London, and their Connecticut advocates via amicus briefs, were the ones who convinced the Court to ignore them. These are the means employed everywhere in our nation whereby, as you say, "a small number of people can control a larger number of peoples." My point in the article is simply that an apology for slavery is rather absurd in Alabama or anywhere else when the particular means of enslaving black men (in a manner most closely resembling the antebellum era) via the criminal justice system continues with increasing throttle. It doesn't even begin to address these large number of other systemic "beat-downs". In any event, all of these "shadows of slavery" are national, not Southern.
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By GreatMinds on June 01, 2007 at 03:34 pm
I hadn't read this story before responding earlier, and it proves that these stories are just too prevalent to ignore the truth of what I said in that response about racism being national. But, the AP reports today, 6/1, that black and Hispanic students in a school in Galesburg, Illinois (not Alabama, Mississippi or Louisiana) are being denied their diplomas by their high school because their friends or family violated a "no-hollering" rule when their names were called for their walk-over to get their diplomas. The kids themselves will have to do public service work to obtain their diplomas, according to the school system, and THEY didn't even break the rules. Oddly enough, no white families' applause or shout-outs were penalized. This is another example of northern racism. So, what if black people are louder than white people? They grow up and live in homes that are closer together oftentimes than those of white families, they often keep close their extended families and see each other in larger family settings very frequently --- coming from a large white family of loudmouths, I know you have to talk loud to be heard. (My wife tells me to shush a lot because I tend to talk loudly.) Do black people get singled out because of their voice volume??? Okay, fine, maybe our white ears are just a little more sensitive and unaccustomed and I can accept that, but to deny these kids their diplomas for it? I don't think so. This is going to be one the school system backs up on unless there is really important missing information from the article.
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By Rose Mountain on April 23, 2008 at 10:22 pm

Thanks for the article. You may be interested in this, a divide and conquer tactic used intentionally by the GOP Party to provoke racism. Below is the link to an interview by a guy who calls himself a GOP operative who was jailed for helping to rig elections,then wrote the book "How To Rig Elections". I was shocked the GOP Party was involved in this.

*DEMOCRACY NOW TV INTERVIEW 1/8/08 (excerpt) "... former Republican operative Allen Raymond, who served time in federal prison for jamming phone lines of the New Hampshire Democratic Party in 2002 to block a Democratic get-out-the-vote campaign. Raymond has come out with a tell-all book called How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative. In addition to the phone-jamming scheme, Raymond details other Republican tactics such as the use of scripted, phony automated phone messages to try to play on white voters’ racial prejudices in a 2000 New Jersey congressional race."  

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