While checking out Paul Street’s page at Znet, something leapt out from the computer screen and gripped my throat. An article titled “A Comeback For Chattel Slavery?” by Geraldine Winstanley published through the Associated Newswire on April 1, 2010 quoted a top Obama administration aide on condition of strict anonymity in an extensive interview in which the aide stated that Obama is considering an executive order to resurrect slavery on an experimental basis here in the US.
The aide said that the program under consideration would be called “Freedom in the Homeland.” It would begin in two selected Washington, DC ghettos where unemployed men and male high school drop-outs would be purchased by a joint public—private consortium. This program would be operated and overseen by the US Department of the Interior.
The article quotes this anonymous White House official as saying that under the Freedom in the Homeland program, these slaves would provide a wide range of services for senior members of participating firms; including shining shoes, washing cars, picking up children from daycare, laundry, personal care for lobbyists’ aged parents, planting and tending lobbyists’ vegetable gardens, working in lobbyist-owned sweatshops, and auto repair. In return, these poor and mostly inner-city enslaved males would get food, clothing, shelter, and (quoting Winstanely’s article):
“a feeling of being at the real center of power in the world’s greatest empire — priceless. It should move a bunch of them off that destructive, personally irresponsible inner-city culture that the president has been criticizing for years. Knowing that Barack Obama stands behind this program will be useful for garnering cooperation from the young men selected for service to their country. It will help them see bondage as an opportunity for growth.”
This official also added that Obama’s “vision for this is color-blind and post-racial. Although Freedom in the Homeland might initially target poor urban blacks, it would eventually include poor Latinos, Asians, and poor whites. Several top corporate Obama sponsors — Boeing, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Wal-Mart, and Exxon-Mobile — have already expressed an interest in participating as slaveholders in Freedom in the Homeland.
My initial knee-jerk reaction was to dismiss Geraldine Winstanley’s article at Paul Street’s Znet page as a twisted April Fool’s joke. But there’s nothing funny about it. The only ones who realize any “opportunity for growth” in a system of chattel slavery are ruthless exploiters — those profiting from the trafficking in human beings.
Although the overwhelming majority of Americans should be outraged enough to march on the White House lawn, most probably won’t. This society has already accepted the time-honored tradition of degrading the poor and supporting abusive economic and social policy that targets capitalism’s losers with punishment for the status crime of being poor.
Americans applauded the assault on women’s basic human rights and personal liberties with specious “conscience clause” laws and “fetal personhood” laws which put every woman’s uterus and genitalia in the realm of male dominated church and state owned property; expropriated for patriarchal capitalism’s benefit — guaranteeing the reproduction of a reserve army of labor. The conscription of unwilling women into childbirth chattel slavery without any regard for how the “breeder livestock” feels about it (or if the reproductive chattel survives pregnancy and childbirth) was welcomed by society under the “pro-life” banner.
Nobody cares if women suffer trauma from the permanent negative impacts of compulsory maternity — we’re not human enough for harm to us to matter.
Nobody cares that rape victims are denied EC in emergency rooms, and why 87% of all US counties have NO abortion provider while women in most regions of the US (excluding large coastal cities) are forced to travel 50 miles or more to the nearest Planned Parenthood for free/low-cost reliable contraceptives.
Pregnant women in US delivery rooms are routinely deprived of privacy, basic human dignity and civil rights under the aegis of “fetal personhood” laws and degrading (and often sadistic) “routine” medical procedures.
Being denied the right to self-determination and bodily autonomy and bodily integrity IS chattel slavery. Only rich women enjoy the blessings of liberty in a nation billed as the beacon of freedom.
The public accepts slave labor for inmates in our prison-industrial complex under AR 210-35. The assaults on workers’ rights and the gutting of social programs for the working class and the poor beginning with the Reagan Revolution precipitated a burgeoning underclass and skyrocketing drug-related crimes — to which the response was “Three Strikes” laws and mandatory minimum sentencing.
The state and federal prison system has replaced HUD Section-8 as the nation’s largest subsidized housing program. With an increasing number of drug offenders from the dispossessed working class, more money in federal tax dollars goes to the communities where prisons are built. The prime beneficiaries are businesses using prison labor and private prison corporations. There are two corporations that dominate the privatized prison industry in the US: Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group (formerly known as Wackenhut). These two outfits control 75% of the for-profit prison industry.
“The clever young man who recently made it to the White House is a very fine hypnotist, partly because it is indeed exciting to see an African American at the pinnacle of power in the land of slavery. However, this is the 21st century, and race together with gender and even class can be very seductive tools of propaganda. For what is so often overlooked and what matters…is the class one serves.” ~ John Pilger
Wackenhut’s founder was an ardent John Bircher who made his pile during the McCarthy era by compiling dossiers on those suspected of “un-American activities” (Communists); achieving over 4 million files by 1966 — one for every 46 American adults. The company was founded in 1954 by George Wackenhut, a former FBI official. It was a publicly held corporation from 1966-2002; after which it merged with Group 4 Falck, creating the monster private security firm Group 4 Securicor (now known as G4S). Prior to the merger, the chairman was George Wackenhut, the CEO and vice chairman was George C. Zoley, and the president and COO was Wayne H. Calabrese. The company’s upper echelons included ex-CIA, FBI and other government officials.
Wackenhut is a subsidiary of G4S, a UK based global security firm. It has profited handsomely from the school-to-prison pipeline created by an agenda of deliberate disinvestment, which escalated during the Reagan Revolution. The Reagan administration aimed its malevolence at poor single mothers and cut social programs for the working class — including CETA, the federally subsidized jobs placement program. During the 1980’s, the US got “tough on crime” by implementing “Three Strikes” laws. Wackenhut entered the prison business in 1987 and was reaping annual profits of $630.3 million by 1992. By 1997, Wackenhut controlled one third of the prison market contracts and provided prison slave labor for IBM and Microsoft. Prison industry officials admit that there is a vested interest in ensuring a burgeoning prison population, and how those prisoner slave laborers are treated is of no concern.[[i]][[ii]]
The permanent loss of jobs and aggressive union-busting left the most vulnerable members of the working class with few alternatives other than the illicit economy. Most of the crimes committed by the poor are illegal drug sales out of economic desperation for lack of any real job opportunities. The semi-skilled $7/hour worker who loses his job due to disinvestment finds himself unemployed and alienated by a society that was indoctrinated with the meritocracy myth. He turns to crime to survive, then gets arrested and imprisoned where he is given a new job by a private corporation doing business with the prison system under the federal guidelines framed within AR 210-35, where he is put to work for 22 cents an hour. He went from worker to unemployed to criminal to convict slave laborer.[[iii]]
Inmate slave labor is the goose that lays the golden eggs for wealthy corporate interests. There’s no unionizing, no strikes, no unemployment benefits, no workers’ comp insurance, and no employers’ portion of the social security taxes. It’s not a coincidence that the working class is overwhelmingly represented among the prison rolls.
Prisoners across the US work at data entry jobs for Chevron; taking telephone reservations for TWA, raising livestock, making electronic components for computer motherboards, making waterbeds, and making sexy lingerie for Victoria Secret. The beneficiaries are the corporations using slave labor, the investment banking firms, mutual fund managers, and the rich who can afford to have stock portfolios. Saloman Smith Barney, American Express, and GE (to name a few) are major shareholders in the privatized prison-industrial complex — of which Wackenhut has cornered the market. By 2001, Wackenhut’s revenues topped $2.8 billion as the leading provider of security at US national defense sites with a global presence on six continents. It serves as the US division of a global corporation that provides security officers, customs protection officers, property security, training programs and investigative services. It handles law enforcement duties, “operations maintenance”, and airfield management for the Justice Prisoner Transport System (JPATS).
In 1997, Professor Ian Stewart — science fiction writer and world class mathematician — met with Alexander B. Cuppett to discuss what he knew firsthand about the implementation of a fascist totalitarian regime through FEMA and Wackenhut under REX-84 (Executive Order by Ronald Reagan for constructing concentration camps to detain “subversives”). Cuppett is a retired US Army /Joint Chief of Staff and US Department of Defense inspector. Cuppett extensively documented the infrastructures set up under REX-84. He told Dr. Stewart that as of 1999, there were heavily fortified FEMA bases throughout the US. This is corroborated by the fact that FEMA contracted with Haliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) to build “black site” prisons and detention camps at undisclosed locations throughout the US as a final preparation phase of REX-84. According to former diplomat Peter Dale Scott, the KBR contract is part of a US Department of Homeland Security plan called ENDGAME. The stated purpose of ENDGAME is the “removal of all removable aliens and potential terrorists.” No Congressmen spoke out against this no-bid contract with Haliburton.[[iv]]
To be clear, a “potential terrorist” is anyone who agitates against the corporatocracy. Under the Patriot Act passed and reauthorized by both Democrat and Republican Congressmen, anyone can be charged with the status crime of being a “terrorist” and indefinitely incarcerated — habeas corpus has been replaced with corpus juris[[v]] for this status crime.
In 1995, right before KBR got its no-bid gulag building contract, the air fleets of the US Marshals Service and ICE merged, creating JPATS. This merger created a frighteningly efficient “Con Air” airline for the transport of prisoners and detained undocumented workers. JPATS is managed by the US Marshals Service. It handles over 1,000 requests per day to move prisoners between judicial districts, prisons, and foreign countries; performing over 300,000 transports prisoner and alien transports per year. JPATS is the only government-operated and regularly scheduled airline in the nation, routinely serving over 40 domestic and international cities on an as-needed basis. It transports prisoners for a fraction of the cost that privately owned commercial airlines would charge. JPATS flight schedules are kept secret.
The infrastructure is already in place to reintroduce slavery. The public has already accepted the deprivation of rights and the enslavement of certain subgroups of the US citizenry on “moral” grounds.
The notion that a black man, especially the first black president, would contemplate issuing an executive order to reintroduce slavery for unemployed males is not an unlikely prospect. Nor would Barack Obama be the first wealthy black man to participate in slavery on US soil.
When the axe entered the forest, the trees said, ‘Behold! He was once one of us.’ ~ African proverb
In the antebellum South, the majority of black slaves were owned by “slave magnates” — wealthy plantation aristocracy in the top 1% income bracket. Of this top 1%, some were black.
In 1860, at least six wealthy freed blacks in Louisiana owned about 65 slaves apiece. A wide, C. Richards and her son, P.C. Richards, were wealthy blacks who owned a sugar cane plantation with 152 slaves. Another wealthy black slave magnate in Louisiana was Antoine Dubuclet who owned well over 100 slaves. Dubuclet owned a sugar cane plantation and according to 1860 tax and census records, his estate was valued at $264,000 ($7 million in 2010 dollars), while the mean wealth of southern white men was $3,978 ($93,978 in 2010 dollars). In Charleston, South Carolina, 125 freed blacks owned slaves and 69 freed blacks in North Carolina owned slaves. The most famous wealthy black slaveholder was William “April” Ellison. [[vi]]
Obama is one of America’s fortunate sons. In the antebellum South, blacks couldn’t vote whether they were free or not. But that same imperialist tool of oppression — legalized slavery — still permitted some blacks to gain freedom and wealth, which they used to get even richer by owning their brethren.
How impossible would it be today in post-racial America for a black US president to use his wealth, power, and privilege to resurrect the despicable practice of chattel slavery as a matter of social policy in dealing with the poor?
[i] Palast, Greg, “Wackenhut’s Free Market in Human Misery”, London Observer, September 26, 1999
[ii] Silverstein, Ken, “America’s Private Gulag”, Prison Legal News, June 17, 2000
[iii] Evans, Linda and Goldberg, Eve “The Prison-Industrial Complex and the Global Economy”, 1999
[iv] Homan, Jacqueline S. “Nothing You Can Possess”
[v] Corpus juris: the imperial pronouncement of the force of law without due process; based on the ecclesiastical courts set up under the Roman Curia.
[vi] Johnson, Michael P. and Roak, James L. “Black Masters: A Free Family of Color in the Old South”