I linked my article “When Did Slavery Start In America?” to a friend and she shot back the following response:
Great article, Jim. Thanks for sharing. Of course, a counter-question, and a somewhat rhetorical one, that I would ask is, Why didn’t slavery end in America? And why isn’t anyone talking about it? —Lana
Here’s my answer: I’m going to talk about it. Currently over 60,000 people (of an estimated 30 million worldwide) are being held as chattel for forced labor and sexual exploitation in the United States. These numbers from the Washington Post, and I think they’re lowballing the number of American slaves by a considerable margin, but I have no source to cite for a higher figure. I have gleaned the following information from rt.com. in 2013:
Worldwide value of people sold into slavery in 2012: 42 billion dollars.
Common occupations of slaves: sex object; domestic servant; panhandler.
Notable countries of origin for slaves: Russia and other former Soviet republics; Eastern Europe; Africa; China; the Philippines.
Slaves are known to be shipped to and owned in non-black Islamic Nations, Israel, and the United States of America.
My previous claim that at least 1 million slaves reside in the U.S. was arrived at by taking the estimate of illegal aliens residing in the U.S. cited in this report and extrapolating that 1 in 10 of these people are (as some Russians and Salvadorans that I have known) are here as earners for criminal syndicates.
But out-and-out chattel stats aside, most Americans can be considered wage slaves. This is not just a quaint term. Working for a wage was considered a form of slavery in various times and places. But industrialists were keen on abolishing Southern plantation slavery because it was not efficient enough. They wanted a self-contained wage-slave unit to power the industries coming online—not some antiquated piece of living property that they would have to feed and house! When you read these 19th-century corporateers writing about wage work, it is clear that the idea behind the scheme was to pay people less than it would cost to feed and house them; poverty by design. Our current sinking wage scales have now made this a reality. American laborers cannot afford to feed and house themselves, and middle-class taxpayers are picking up the tab through food stamps. Efficiency!
The sneakiest form of slavery still going is the income tax. The personal income tax was considered unethical even by the people who thought owning people was okay. A hundred and twenty years ago, someone working for hourly wages was considered quite fucked enough, and the thought of taxing his meager earnings was entertained by only the basest criminal politicians.
The modern American pays roughly one third of his earnings to state and federal governments—the same amount a medieval serf had to cough up for his lord and master. If you look at your check and say that this is an exaggeration, it is only because you never see the taxes your employer pays the state for employing you. This is money that would otherwise be available to compensate you, indeed has not been offered you as an inducement, because it has already been claimed by your slave master—who, ironically enough, resides in a big white house.
People think that wage work and taxation do not constitute slavery, since the slave is free to quit the job, leave the country, or drop out of the economy. To correct any such notions permits me to outline the practice of slavery in America.
Three Gates to the Animal Farm:
The American colonies were established using the slave labor of abducted children who were starved, worked, and beaten to death, and were free to leave. Any kidnapped street urchin from the gutters of London with two good legs could head for the hills—the Appalachian Mountains to be exact—and promptly be killed by wild Indians.
Eventually these rebellious white slaves were replaced with blacks who did not have friends living in the hills and did not look like free whites to confuse the issue. These slaves were starved, beaten, and worked to death as well, and appeared to be free to go. No fences or walls surrounded the plantations. Only slaves temporarily held by a soul driver or slave catcher were chained. The rest could try to escape. They usually got as far as the poor white people, who had no job, because the slave masters’ black slaves did the work cheaper and just as well. The poor whites were forced to go on slave patrols and were enslaved or fined or even hanged for not catching the escaped black chattel. Slave catching was often the only job there was—and it was mandatory.
Today we are no longer starved, worked, or beaten to death (unless you count the white-collar salary slaves who suffer heart attacks after years of 80-hour work weeks, or the occasional migrant worker who gets pulled into a piece of farm equipment). Instead we are indoctrinated into the sacral cult of our servitude.
Just like the slave of old, we may travel nowhere without identification.
Just like the slave of old, if you quit your job and become homeless you will be preyed upon by the vast criminal population generated by the welfare state, urban schools, and corrections institutions.
Just as the white-trash back woodsman of old lacked opportunities and was thence driven to prey on escaping slaves, the modern criminal is likewise ready to attack any noncriminal homeless person seeking to escape the system. Being homeless is a crime in almost every U.S. municipality. The cops will get you too.
And the crowning link in the invisible chain that binds you is: if you decide to work but refuse to pay taxes you will be imprisoned with the world’s most violent people. If you escape minimum-wage slavery by joining the black market for drugs, you will be thrown in jail with murderers.
In many ways this latter-day system seems to provide more leverage against the slave, who has no promised land to flee to, as all nations are run on this model now. There is no outer wilderness occupied by savage Indians, or by the slave masters’ dispossessed inferiors, but an inner wilderness where savage criminals and abusive cops await the social dropout.
People will not talk about their condition truthfully, for the truth has been denied them by the parents, teachers, social workers, media, and politicians who have indoctrinated them. Our children are even forced to work for free at “charitable community service” tasks before they are permitted release from the sham school that is a prison for their minds.
In my experience, most women and increasing numbers of men wish deeply to be owned by someone. This yearning, of course, is named something else: love, patriotism, responsibility, or “giving back.” At root, what makes most people good slaves is their innate laziness. It is mentally and emotionally much easier to believe we are free than to be free. Subconsciously we know this, and that is why we adore fictional criminals. This is why John Dillinger was lionized by the destitute slaves of his day.
Lana, the lash is no longer made of leather to strike our back but is fashioned of words to lash our mind.
Slavery has evolved.