By: Hannah Graham
Recently, I began watching The 13th which is a Netflix documentary. It really opened my eyes on how much the educational system has really failed us. What I was shown in the documentary, I had never learned about in school or it had been very limited information. I continued to do more research after and this is some of what I found:
After the 13th amendment was passed and slavery was abolished, corporations and people still wanted the free labor. They realized there was a loophole. In the amendment, it states “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime”. The “except as a punishment for crime” part is very important. If there were people being punished, there could be free labor. People of color began to be arrested for small crimes and given longer sentences. They would be put in jail for jaywalking, loitering, shoplifting, any miniscule crime that a white person would get a slap on the wrist for. The news, media, TV shows, and movies all portrayed black people as predators. They would show them as rapists, saying that the white people must protect their women from black men.
In reality, the majority of rapists towards all women were white men. Black men knew even getting close to a white woman could result in death. When Nixon declared the war on crime, it really became a war on black people. The focus closed in on drugs. Nixon’s policy chief admitted this himself saying, “We could arrest 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.” Harsher sentences were introduced including an option of no parole and minimum sentencing. Drug dealers could face up to life in prison.
Then, crack cocaine was introduced. While regular powder cocaine was a more suburban, white issue, crack cocaine was a black issue. If you were caught with powder cocaine, most of the time it would be a strike or small sentence. It was not a big deal. Crack became a whole other situation. If you were caught with crack, you could go to jail for the rest of your life. Police stormed into houses and arrested as many people as they could for drug dealing or possession. It completely broke down families and poverty rates increased since the man’s source of income was no longer available.
While only 13% of drug users were black from 1995-2005, they made up 36% of drug arrests and 46% of those convicted for drugs. In the 1970s, the number of prisoners was counted to be about 300,000. In 2016 it was 2.6 million. Prisons became a huge part of the economy. It was used to gain money and also a lot of money was put in. Around $56 billion dollars is given to prisons. The money is used to expand them. There has to be enough room for the growth of inmates. America is #1 in the world for the number of incarcerated people and accounts for 25% of the world's prisoners. Unfortunately, in the land of the free, we have the most prisoners in the world. 1 in 3 black men will go to prison at some time in their life. Whereas 1 in 17 white men will.
There are more black people enslaved in prison systems now than there were actual slaves in America in the 1800s. With the over policing of black neighborhoods and blatant racism in justice systems, black people are more likely to be stopped and arrested. There is little real justice in America, with too many factors to play in for it to be true. Slavery was outlawed, but it still continues in an “acceptable” way.