Slavery Didn’t End

Yesterday was Juneteenth, a holiday to celebrate the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation. Unfortunately, based on news articles and social media posts, many if not most people are under the mistaken belief that Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States.

The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t end slavery in the United States (and the anti-slavery laws and Thirteenth Amendment that followed), it changed the rules of slavery. Prior to the Emancipation Proclamation people of African descent could be owned by private individuals in specific states. While the Emancipation Proclamation prohibited that practice, it didn’t prevent all forms of slavery.

In the post Emancipation Proclamation United States whether one can be a slave is no longer determined by skin color and whether one can own slaves is no longer determined by the state in which they reside. Instead whether one can be a slave is determined by criminality and the only legal slave owners are the federal and state governments and their contractors.

Yes, this post is yet another one of my rants about the existence of Federal Prison Industries, also known as UNICOR, state level versions of UNICOR such as MINNCOR, and government contracted private prisons. All of these organizations utilize slave labor, but many people seem to be willing to ignore this fact because the slaves are criminals. But I will again remind you that the legal system in the United States is so convoluted that the label criminal is effectively arbitrary. Back in 2011 the book Three Felonies a Day was published. The book pointed out that working professionals in the United States unknowingly commit an average of three felonies per day. The only reason they aren’t all criminals is because the state either hasn’t caught them or hasn’t enforced its laws against them. But if the state doesn’t like somebody it can chose to investigate them and enforce any of its numerous laws against them and thus make them a criminal.

So when you see news anchors, politicians, and celebrities celebrating an end to slavery, remember that slavery is still alive and well in the United States. The rules may have changed, but the practice never ended.

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Slavery never ended in the United States, the rulers were just altered slightly. Instead of declaring people slaves based on their ancestry the United States now declares it based on being labeled a criminal. That’s quite convenient since we’re all criminals. In addition to changing the criteria on who is and isn’t a slave the state also changed the rules on who gets the money. Under the previous rules the slave owners received the profits gained through slave labor but now the state gets it all! Hoping to boost profits the state has been advertising its slave labor service to people interested in outsourcing:

Searching for the “best kept secret in outsourcing,” one that can “provide you with all the advantages” of domestic workers, but with “offshore prices”? Try prison labor!

That’s the message of Unicor, also known as Federal Prison Industries, a government-owned corporation that employs federal workers for as little as 23 cents an hour to manufacture military uniforms, furniture, electronics and other products.

The “best kept secret in outsourcing” is literally slavery. And the slave owner in this case gets to create as many slaves as it wants by voting amongst itself to create new crimes. Talk about a win-win situation.

Many people point out that Chinese labor is practically slave labor. But Chinese laborers can demand higher wages and even leave their job if their demands aren’t met. Slave laborers in American prisons can’t demand higher wages because they can’t quit and go elsewhere. Their options are either to work for a quarter an hour or rot in a cell all day long.

Welcome to the freest goddamn country on Earth.