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By Scotty Reid
John Legend and Common; both won an Oscar for the song “Glory” which is on the soundtrack for the movie Selma. What is noteworthy is not the Oscar win itself, that is unless you are the kind of person that values white validation in Holloywood, but what John Legend said during his acceptance speech was profound given the event. While Legend fell short of calling mass incarceration what it really is, constitutionally protected slavery, abolitionists still applaud him for using the word slavery in the same sentence as “correctional control”.
“We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than there were under slavery in 1850.” Legend stated without doubt in his Oscar acceptance speech that his responsibility as an artist was to follow the example set by legendary recording artist, singer and Black activist Nina Simone. Legend started with a quote from Simone stating, “It’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live”.
Legend began his speech noting that those who marched for the right to vote during the civil rights period free of white terrorism, that same federally protected right that generation marched for is being weakened and gutted by the federal courts presently. Legend then noted that the percentage of Black men under the white man’s control as Malcolm X called it in his autobiography looks a lot like slavery.
What abolitionist would like to point out is that it looks more than like slavery, it is slavery. When major corporations across several industries exploit hundreds of thousands of captive people’s labor in America and their paid literal “slave wages”, you get the picture of the slavery that still exists.
When you look at the number of the enslaved who are beaten, raped and murdered by “correctional officers” every year, imagine the beatings, rapes and murders that occurred on plantations pre-1865 and you get a clearer picture of modern slavery in America.
When you consider the wide spread use of law enforcement tactics like stop, question and frisk, the quota systems police use as they racially profile Black people, think of the slave patrols of old and all the stops, questions and frisks they did to the many African descendant people, so-called free and so-called slave they came across on the road and you begin to get the true picture of modern day slavery and human trafficking in America today.
Abolitionists appreciate Mr. Legend saying on a international stage, look, there is something wrong here and it looks like black men are being enslaved. Corporate news outlets have already been busy editing Mr. Legend’s comments about modern day slavery.
As an abolitionist, I feel compelled to point out a huge number of non-black males are also being enslaved in large numbers in America. When most people discuss modern slavery (mass incarceration), they tend to focus solely on Black men but the fact is, Black women and children despite gender represent a growing percentage of people enslaved on modern plantations.
Hispanics are the second most enslaved population people in the United States. A recent slavery rebellion at a federal immigration detention facility is ongoing and these sort of work stoppage rebellions are increasing across the United States in federal, state and private facilities. Hispanics may be the fastest growing prison demographic and could overtake Black men in ten or more years which makes sense given their overall population growth in the United States. The Geo Group has discussed its family friendly immigrant detention facilities for women and children on earnings calls that sounded a lot like some sort of red, white and blue brainwashing at a few of its current labor camps.
Followed by Hispanics are First Nation indigenous people who make up the third largest group. This group includes those indigenous to not only North American tribes but also Pacific Islanders and Islanders in the Atlantic Ocean whose islands are currently occupied and “officially” recognized as US territories where corporations usually run the politics.
Private prison enslavers like the Geo Group and Corrections Corporation of America operate internationally in several countries. Again, in its last earnings call, the Geo Group discussed some sort of mind control programming experiment they will be carrying out on inmates in Australia after taking over that countries entire slavery operations that primarily enslaves Aboriginals.
Legalized slavery sanctioned by the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution is prevalent in the United States and with billion dollar incentives is it a wonder that it remains a world leader in incarcerating its so-called citizens? Slavery has been and always will be a pillar of the American economy unless a new abolitionist movement does not arise to smash it. At this point in his awakening process after a lifetime of programming, we cannot consider John Legend an abolitionist just yet, but it seems he is on the path to modern abolitionism.