Dispatches From the Slave Quarters: Two Prisoners Look at U.S. Prison Slavery on the Eve of the August 19th March to Amend the 13th Amendment (2017)

prisongates_300dpiby Kevin “Rashid” Johnson and Jason Renard Walker

Introduction by Rashid

The following is a series of written exchanges between Comrade Jason and myself, that took place during June 2017 while we were both imprisoned together in solitary confinement at the Clements Unit prison in Amarillo, Texas.

This exchange which examines slave labor in U.S. prisons was prompted by our reflections on the then-upcoming “Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March” that was set to occur on August 19, 2017. Jason initiated it upon reading an interview with one of the March’s organizers Krystal Roundtree of iamWE, that was conducted on March 27, 2017 by Eddie Conway of The Real News.[1]

I feel this exchange raises a number of important points and concerns, and issues particular to us inside U.S. prisons, that warrant consideration by those involved and interested in the growing movement to amend the 13th amendment, to abolish slavery in U.S. prisons, and against mass imprisonment.

Our exchanges ended when I was transferred to Florida on June 22, 2017.

 

Prison Exchanges of Rashid and Jason

  1. To Rashid:

I finished this “Millions for Prisons Human Rights March” interview of Krystal Roundtree as soon as you sent it to me.

I might be exaggerating or even paranoid, but something is fishy about her responses. First, she states, “I’m humbled by the opportunity to represent the prisoners in this fashion.” This suggests that she’s made herself a representative of prisoners via a march. I agree that all outside lobbying and support are needed, but I don’t agree on this march in D.C.

If you remember, poor New Afrikans/ Blacks at the grassroots tried to launch a siege on D.C. in 1963, but president John F. Kennedy and his backers financed and created a Civil Rights council, with Martin Luther King, Jr. as the head and five others who were at the time competing for Black Civil Rights leadership. It was later admitted by White House advisor Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. that the U.S. government used King to convert the siege into a limited peaceful protest march on voting issues.[2] There’s nothing stopping the government from doing the same thing to this march.

Since she’s linked this march to our next work stoppage, its success or failure may affect our motivation to carry on with the work stoppage.[3] Remember in December 2010 when prisoners in Georgia went on work strike? Everything was going fine until Elaine Brown popped up and diverted them into ending the strike and instead putting false hope in a lawsuit they’d filed. They ended the work strike, the lawsuit did nothing, and the exploitation continued.

These are things we should be looking for and bringing awareness to. What if this march draws some false promises from legislators, for example, and the only way this fake decree will be met is if the national work stoppage ends?

There are many unconscious prisoners that will be participating and may in fact fall for the okey doke. This could cause a ripple effect and would play counter to our efforts to “Amend the 13th,” due to it being a national work stoppage in conjunction with a march in DC. This will draw the attention of not only the U.S. government but racist hate groups that oppose social justice for prisoners.[4]

And another thing. Those that are supporting this campaign are groups like Black Lives Matter and their counterparts. They don’t possess the consciousness to realize that we aren’t seeking reform or minor tweaks in the 13th Amendment that can be re-amended.

It’s not about getting paid to work or guaranteed release dates. The rabbit hole goes way deeper. It’s about relinquishing our status as modern-day slaves and commodities of the state. This is what will garner adequately paid prison work and fair sentences/releases. Since the state won’t be able to exclusively exploit us, they’ll be more apt not to hold us longer in efforts to save money. It’s a long shot but it’s foreseeable and in motion.

Jason

 

  1. To Jason:

The planned march is inherently a reform movement, so its aims and methods are limited from the outset. Our line within and in relation to it should be to infuse a revolutionary awareness that can build on its work and advance it.

I can’t say there’s something inherently “fishy” about Roundtree’s claiming to represent prisoners in that initiative, although I do get your concerns with pig co-optation or subversion, there is precedent for it as you point out. She does say the movement was born from prisoners’ own initiatives, and various prisoner groups have signed on to it. But you’re right, there is the question whether prisoners’ own voices will be heard in and as part of that rally. They should be. Otherwise, I can’t speak on her role or motivation. I’m not in a position to interrogate any of that.

But as Communists, our role is to support all levels of resistance to the oppressive status quo. And, yes, there is always the danger of pig co-optation, especially of reform work. This is why a revolutionary line should be active and present in educating the movement. Yet, the particular obstacles you and I are facing right now have blocked our access to meaningful information on this initiative.

Overall, we should, where we can, orient ourselves to unite with and where able give leadership to them and their agendas. Remember they are reformist from the outset and this based on their level of awareness and class line, and the attendant limitations of both. Our role isn’t to sit on the sidelines “waving and criticizing”, but to give active leadership – this is how you advance reformist lines and link them up to revolutionary ones.

Consider that King was used by the pigs to subvert the planned 1963 siege on DC because at that time he lacked a revolutionary perspective; he was then pro-capitalist, pro-integrationist on New Afrikans/Blacks into this oppressive system, and he had a naive trust in the Establishment. But he woke up toward the end of his life, became a Socialist (albeit a closet one), rejected our integration into this capitalist-imperialist system, and broke with the old Civil Rights agenda and Democratic coalition. He devised to organize an encampment set for 1964 in DC of all poor, to rectify the one he was manipulated to subvert in 1963. It was at that point, on the eve of the 1964 encampment that the Establishment murdered him. Although his strategic non-violence confined him to a less-than-all-the-way revolutionary movement, it was his introduction to revolutionary views that was opening his eyes.

Rashid

 

  1. To Rashid:

If you go back to my missive you’ll see that I state that I support these resistance groups. I’m just skeptical about the fruitfulness of this march, due to them being broadly reformist, and as you mentioned our current state of having limited access to meaningful information; it’s a difficult task to give “active leadership” as you prescribe. I’ve actually sought to do this of course and it’s been receptive to the IWOC [the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee of the Industrial Workers of the World], but there’s still more that needs to be done that we can’t do as of now.

What I read in the Roundtree interview expresses why I wrote the organizing piece for the anthology on correcting mistakes from the first work stoppage [which began on September 9, 2016]. One mistake was having “representatives” speaking for us in their tongue, as opposed to them or someone reading our messages as they are written. I just don’t agree with this representative thing. What this does is reroutes everything coming out of prison and into prison through a “pop goes the weasel” medium (someone that just pops up).

It’s one thing to harp about what our line is supposed to do and it’s another to recognize that we aren’t in any position to present a revolutionary line or idea to someone that has created their own position and idea in an area that’s restricted to us. Due to mailroom censorship, me and thousands of other prisoners across the country will at one point have our mail banned or destroyed. So, I’m aware that my role and applying our line in this event will be obstructed.

During the September 2016 work stoppage I made an attempt to answer questions from that journalist from The Nation who was covering the event, John Washington. I never said the word “strike” or anything that would get my mail banned, but the mailroom denied the letter claiming it advocated a hunger strike.

Then too you say we are supposed to orient ourselves to unite with these groups. But who are they? Where are their addresses? How do I get in contact with them? There’s a lot more to it than just stating what should and shouldn’t be done, especially if these outside groups decline our insight and help.

I can’t force groups to allow me to unite with them. And I don’t have the resources to do any fact or background checks, so I believe it’s logical that I analyze the motives of folks coming out of thin air and positioning themselves to lead a movement that has the potential to change the U.S. penal system.

And I actually have sought unity with a lot of outside prison “abolitionists” but most of them turned out to be empty channels and others sent meaningless pamphlets containing the same resources that were empty channels. In most cases a lot of them have an interest in prisoners that are already established and tend to them as individuals not in efforts to help them build a united base that can be used to make the movement broader.

Jason

 

  1. To Jason:

You’re absolutely right about the limits that circumstances have us under, not just because of our lack of access to needed info but also because of our Party’s lack of an active presence on the outside. I’m building with our Chairperson on this right now how to remedy the problem and making that outside transition.

But in the meantime, we have our written word, which it’s imperative to keep disseminating. Our agitation and educational work is like sowing seeds, not all will grow into oak trees, but many will take root, grow to maturity and give off more seeds in turn. A forest can begin with one tree. And we’re definitely working in fertile ground – there’s a lot of ferment out there and the more openly reactionary policies of Trump and Co are definitely stirring the pot.

You may not know, but the agenda to build the movement to “Amend the 13th Amendment” was ours. This was our Party’s initiative that we constantly pressed amongst prisoners almost from our founding in 2005. Through our various newsletters it was spread and took root in here, and has now expanded to the outside.[5]

You’re right that we can’t compel folks who’ve assumed a “leading” role in a mass movement to embrace our line, but we can agitate it to our mass base. That’s all we can do now so we need to do it. As our Party’s General Principles outline and promote, we must write, write, write and generate art, etc., to keep promoting our line. Our target is our mass base who will present elements that grasp and will apply that line.

Whatever mediums we have available to us, we must use them to the Nth degree. And we must keep being flexible in how we use them so, as you noted, we can angle past prison censors for example, which isn’t a new experience for us. When we were putting out 5 different newsletters we got censored a lot, but we also got a lot in.

A lot of times those other groups will ally with us when they see we have mass support. They won’t always join us because we reach out to them. We just need in some instances to put our line up next to theirs and let the people choose which is most responsive to their interests, which is the line they’ll grasp. Like this “Amend the 13th Amendment” movement. That was our line and slogan. Instead of the farfetched “Abolish all Prisons” rhetorical line of other groups, prisoners connected with our line and promoted it. It’s now taken on its own life.

Rashid

 

  1. To Rashid:

I actually remember receiving the “No Taxation”[6] piece you wrote when you first started sending me reading material around three years ago. Before then, I’d never thought to link prison labor with legal slavery. Due to lack of exposure on such a thing, my mind couldn’t expand past what the administration at this prison was pushing and promoting.

I never fell for their game of baiting gangs into distrusting and fighting each other, but I also did nothing to teach them that they were being played against each other.

The Amend the 13th Amendment agenda is a good platform to start politically engaging with those around us. But before our peers (or most) will take things seriously, they have to be taught the real history of Texas prisons and how the conditions from the early 1900s up to David Ruiz’s lawsuit[7] were far worse than most prisons in Amerika were during that span.

It wasn’t the prisoners that gave Texas prisons a bad name. It was the murderous wardens and their low level cronies killing us under the slightest pretexts. Then too even when you research the history of the TDCJ [Texas Department of Criminal Justice (sic!)], you’ll see that everything available has been cherrypicked and censored to hide the administration’s role in how horrific the conditions were/are.

There’s a Texas prison museum in Huntsville, TX. It has “old sparky” the electric chair, arts and crafts made by some of the first captives, old prison uniforms, etc. They have daily tours there, which are supposed to walk you through the “untold” history of Texas prisons. What they forgot to include is how the administration committed and authorized the killings of rebellious prisoners (at the hands of building tenders).[8] I’m talking about the Nat Turners, Harriet Tubmans and Kunta Kintes. Those that were conscious and knew the conditions that they were forced to work and live in were unconstitutional. Even the operators of the museum admit that they left out everything that could shed a bad light on the history of Texas prisons.

This untold story is why most prisoners aren’t concerned with becoming conscious. They actually believe that passiveness and siding with the pigs is something that hasn’t been attempted to be countered. This validates you saying before prisoners and others haven’t been keen on committing themselves to something that doesn’t have an extremely expansive network and resource center.

Something I’ve done is talk with the “Old Schools” and learn as much as I can about the history of Texas prisons. Two names that seem to always pop up is building tenders “Leaky Eye” and “Jerry Ball.” The consistent recurrence of their names makes it probable that the stories are true as well.

Once we get our peers to start learning that we are only living in a phase of a cycle that’s manipulated by the pigs, they’ll come a step closer to being receptive. I’m trying to figure out a way to get some data and info on the pigs’ methods and role in the tactics used to sucker us into siding with them. With this info I will summarize an awareness prose.

I think an effective way to start transitioning to the outside is by making an effort to link with the many #Livesmatter groups that tend to consistently rally wherever police brutality is present. Most of them are fed up young men and wimyn who one day may play an important role in establishing a national powerbase. They only lack in having a correct ideology that’s designed to uncover long-term problems that are caused by, not Trump and his cronies, but the system they’re trying to protect – capitalist imperialism.

I’m sure if our comrade were able to attend some of these rallies and pass out some literature promoting our stance, he’d slowly pick up interested minds. Getting them to grasp and adhere to it is another story. The fact that they know the current establishment is protecting the police state and, in response, the pigs are using this to murder people, says the ground is fertile like you state. It just needs to be cultivated and the seeds planted.

I was hoping to have found a way to push our writings to the families of prisoners here by now. My neighbor said he sent a few URLs to his sister. He said she told him that she checked them out, but gave no feedback. He said he wanted to give her insight into what’s happening in solitary confinement; so I’m sure he explained to her the lack of awareness this prison is getting.

I’m in no position to force or suggest that families of our peers read what I recommend in a certain way. This is what makes it hard. Most of the people I have run across have family that support them financially, but are extremely evasive when it comes to the more practical things like calling the warden, navigating on-line, etc.

I remember trying this same strategy with another one of our more cynical peers whom you know. But he was so caught up in trying to do other things that he felt as if I was trying to have his outside contacts view our writings in efforts to pull them away from him. He’d tell me all the time that he sent the info to them and they told him they had no interest in looking the essays up and to quit asking them.

I felt this was all invented because he gave the same blanket answer each time. I may try having others I deal with explain our reasons for posting articles and what we hope to accomplish to their families, as a small step. I’ve got some more info about the August march that I’ll also mention.

Jason

 

  1. To Jason:

Well of course most U.S. prisoners don’t know they’re slaves. As you noted, the system whitewashes its true history, and not just its history but also its present character.

Slavery is universally denounced. In fact right after World War II the U.S. wrote and ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which specifically states at article 4:

“No one shall be held in servitude: slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”

At that very moment, in 1948 and up until right now, Texas prisons operated work plantations which they call “farms.” In fact this Clements Unit prison where we are is one of them, where prisoner work gangs grow a wide variety of crops and using only primitive handheld hoeing tools. Literally the same form of labor enforced against Blacks on the old antebellum slave plantations.

But the system is both concealed and portrayed as legitimate – as a “justified” “punishment” for and “deterrent” to crime. Prisoners are brainwashed into accepting that they’re receiving their just desserts for running afoul of the law of society. It’s all bullshit of course.

First off as set out in the above quoted treaty, slavery is illegal. In fact how do you square this with Article VI of the U.S. Constitution which declares that “all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the Land…”? So who’s the lawbreaker here?

Furthermore, there’s a co-relationship between crime and poverty. There’s also one between being a person of color and being profiled as inherently “criminal” in Amerika. This followed on the heels of the supposed abolition of slavery in 1865 and the passage of the 13th Amendment that same year, which preserved that same form of bonded labor against those convicted of a crime.

What followed was the immediate passage and enforcement of criminal laws, such as the Black Codes, that specifically targeted the newly “freed” Blacks, so to reduce them right back to a state of bondage. There has ever since been a selective targeting of people of color and the poor for criminalization and incarceration, where our labor then becomes “free” to exploit. And like the antebellum system our condition can only be maintained by a mix of brainwash and terror. So, often, like with Stockholm Syndrome, by forced dependence on an abuser for satisfaction of basic needs and the abuser’s exercising the power of life or death, the oppressed become blind sycophants and devotees to their abuser.

Overall it’s like Harriet Tubman observed, she’d freed hundreds of slaves, and could have freed hundreds more had they only known they were slaves. This is our task, and not just to awaken the slaves to their exploited status, but also society at large.

And today’s slave system is no more legitimate than was the old trans-Atlantic slave trade, with our oppressed communities just like the Afrikan societies that were targeted by bands of slave catchers. This is the role of the cops. They’re not there to serve or protect us. They’re there to preserve the status quo and contain us, while also feeding us into a machine that exploits us and does nothing to meet the needs nor solve the problems our communities face. In fact they are a large part of creating and perpetuating those problems.

What does it say that 97% of federal criminal convictions and 95% of state felony convictions are obtained by coerced guilty pleas (plea bargains) by poor folks who lack the resources to leverage any defense against charges that police dole out like candy and regardless of genuine concern for guilt or innocence? In fact it is well known that cops routinely lie on criminal defendants to ensure convictions. The prosecutors and courts work hand-in-hand in the process.[9]

There are no jury trials of one’s “peers.” It’s all coercion – plead guilty and receive a shorter sentence or fight (and without a lawyer who’s genuinely interested or provided the needed resources to defend you), and face the stiffest possible sentence at the hands of judges incensed by you putting them “through the inconvenience of a trial.” That’s almost 100% of convictions produced by compulsion.

If folks really understood how this shit works they’d clearly see its illegitimacy. We see it, and many feel it intuitively, especially when they see us repeatedly murdered by cops on video and nothing’s done.

These are only the opening stages of prison slavery, how we got here to start with. It says nothing of what we suffer once locked inside.

I have had successful experiences reaching and organizing prisoners’ loved ones. Back home in Virginia I co-founded a prisoner support initiative called “Fed Up!” We were able to enlist prisoners and their families through a weekly radio call-in program that allowed folks to send messages on the air to prisoners.

Fed Up! initially consisted of just me and a femyl comrade, named Etta. She announced the initiative on the air and I spread word on the inside to prisoners at our two supermaxes that the program reached. We called on the prisoners to send Etta abuse reports and outside loved ones’ contact information.

I wrote exposés on abuses of the prisons – this is when and how I first began writing abuse articles.[10] We created a newsletter that we sent free to prisoners and their families that featured the articles and my and others’ artwork and writings exposing the true conditions, character and nature of U.S. prisons. We developed a network of prisoners’ loved ones pretty quickly and organized them for public protests against the abuses.

The reports and newsletter helped educate and embolden the loved ones, who otherwise didn’t or wouldn’t believe what was really going on or who had felt isolated and helpless before. Etta was the key outside organizer. I did the strategizing.

At one point I planned and she led a group in staging a sit-in in the governor’s office with the media there. They refused to leave without some demonstrative action taken by the governor immediately to stop the abuses. At first he wouldn’t come out and speak to them.

If they were forcibly evicted, they assured his secretary, it would be headline news that he had the cops throw them out because they were there with extensive documentation of repeated beatings and abuses of prisoners, and in many cases racially targeted by guards at the remote supermaxes.

When he saw their resolve, he changed his tune and started making calls right then. Within weeks numerous abusive guards at the prisons lost their jobs, the warden Daniel Braxton was replaced by Tracey Ray who cracked down on physical abuse, and the director “retired.” And shit changed.

The Initiative fell off because Etta and I went our separate ways, but it proved that we can be organized and empowered with good planning and practice.

Rashid

 

  1. To Rashid:

One of the Texas Prison profiteers’ schemes to maximize profits was to be self-supporting. This aim was tinkered with leading up to the 1940s, and as you mentioned Texas ignored the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Instead, they revolutionized the art of slavery in an ebb and flow process of working the prisoners like dogs while making it appear to be constitutional.

In 1902 legislators investigated the prison system along with all of the other state agencies. During this point prison officials had the prisoners too scared to report abuses to the investigators, because nothing prevented guards from throwing handcuffed prisoners into lakes and outright murdering them and getting away with it.

Then too, at this stage, prisoners were leased to farmers at a rate with guards provided to oversee the operation. It was up to the farmers to feed and house the prisoners. In turn the farmers worked them to death, made them sleep on dirt floors in shacks, and fed them little if anything. The causes of death of those who died from this treatment was listed as natural causes. Only a fool wouldn’t recognize that something was amiss in the Texas prison system.

So around 1909 Texas took advantage of a reform movement commonly being used by other states. This bogus reform program consisted of conducting an investigation which ultimately led to a complete reorganization of the Texas prison system. This resulted in the abolition of convict leasing, but did nothing to reduce the use of slave labor.

It went from the prison system getting paid to lease prisoners to landowners, to its using these same prisoners to do the same work on farms leased or owned by the state. This is how they effectively morphed into being successfully self-sufficient.

With the rise of private prisons a loophole was created which allowed convict leasing to be legally reinstated. In an inverted fashion, now private prisons are being paid to hold and work prisoners from federal and state prisons.

Most state prisons are profiting as well through the use of the Interstate Corrections Compact (ICC) program, which allows state and federal prisons to hold prisoners from other states (as you are being held) for a specific daily fee. In regards to this Texas wins all the way around. Not only do they get paid to house out-of-state prisoners but any work rights they might have in their respective home states don’t apply in Texas. So, in other words, out-of-state prisoners who are shipped to Texas via ICC work for free.

I actually experienced working the fields with dull garden hoes, no work gloves, while an armed pig on a horse (trained by prisoners) screamed and hollered at me and others who deliberately slacked. “Get your cut Walker!”, he’d scream at least ten times a day whenever he saw my “cut” (area I’m supposed to chop with the hoe), hadn’t been touched.

There was the honor squad and the disciplinary squad. The honor squad consisted of prisoner lackeys who would attack other prisoners that slacked. All they had to do was say, “Can I get ‘em boss?”, and you had yourself a fight.

They aimed to please their “bossman,” so they were sometimes used to supervise and threaten the slackers to scare them into working hard.

If this didn’t work then you would be put on the disciplinary squad.

In this squad verbal abuse and fights are paramount. The pigs constantly verbally abused us and prisoners would attack each other under the false belief that beating a slacker would get them a better job on the plantation. They called it the disciplinary squad because we were all on privilege restriction for poor work performance or other work-related conduct, e.g. refusing to show up for work, enjoying the edible crops, killing snakes, etc.

I only lasted 3 days at the Middleton Unit, but I worked 3 months at the Roach Unit.

I was a prime victim of exploitation. I only had a small sentence, so if I kept refusing to work I would receive a disciplinary case, which would extend my parole date affecting my opportunity for early release. This all happened in 1999, but I hear the labor is not as extreme now.

Any dialoguing about prison labor being “slave labor” and prisoners being slaves often draws arguments and sometimes racial tensions.

During the first national prison work stoppage in September 2016, I wrote an article for the progressive website Truth-out.org called, “Unpaid Labor in Texas Prisons is Modern Day Slavery.” I wrote this article in support of the campaign since, being in solitary confinement, I couldn’t physically contribute.

I was hoping to awaken others in “society at large” about the illegitimate practice of slave labor in Texas. I only set the feedback bar to one positive comment, but what happened was completely unexpected.

In the comment section of my article there was a big discussion in favor of what I wrote, with only one naysayer who was obviously a troll whose purpose was to disrupt the discussion. It turned into an argument about race so the editors closed the comments section.

What this showed was that if this issue is presented to the general masses a huge majority would support the Amend the 13th Amendment drive.

The penal system itself is actually a system of slavery within a larger system of slavery – the monetary system. All of these convoluted systems of slavery thrive because they are self-protected by the slaves themselves, who aren’t aware they are slaves. Society is becoming aware of this, which is reflected by the support the first work stoppage received and the support this upcoming one is receiving. And of course the penal system specifically targets people of color and the poor.

We as people see the sham but we don’t see it. If we were able to mobilize a network like Fed up! in this state it wouldn’t take long to get some positive results. The system is ripe for the plucking. If we could get an outside voice for this particular state that prisoners knew they had access to, we could get more of our peers to assist in bringing a dramatic change in how we are given medical care, food, against the physical abuse, etc. But due to the statewide culture being hopeless and discouraged, they’d have to see it to believe it.

Medical staff and pigs are killing us, then falsifying records to avoid liability; they recognize the culture too and are exploiting it.

I’ve sought to find someone out there who would dedicate a little time to helping mobilize a campaign here specifically designed to start protests, etc. to draw some media and public attention on this prison and the slave labor issue.

Really all I’m doing is fishing but it beats sitting around pipe-dreaming about made up laws and bills that might get passed. I’ve actually already cast the line I’m just waiting for a bite.

I’m not talking about journalists and media heads but regular people who won’t attach a monetary value on my desire to act, so that their efforts aren’t opportunistic and based on self-interest

Jason

 

  1. To Jason:

Karl Marx observed that slave systems that have a means of constantly replenishing its laborers, typically extract the most labor out of the workers and expend the least resources for their upkeep – meaning they’re worked harder and typically to death. This was the Texas model.

Since the supply of slaves are constantly replaced by the simple mechanism of criminal convictions, the state cares less about their well-being and only about pushing them to keep generating profits with their free labor.

Texas should be the poster child of the “Amend the 13th Amendment” movement, since it was here that the Southern prison model was initiated and refined. This model being that which came directly from the antebellum plantation slave system and has always been sustained and inspired by open brutality against its captives, versus the Northern prison model that’s always characterized itself as oriented to “rehabilitation,” although it has never lived up to this claim.

Brutality pervades the entire U.S. prison system with greater or lesser intensity given various stages and campaigns for reforms. Texas, as always, is recognized, even by the courts, as among Amerika’s most abusive.

It could be no other way since as the antebellum system proved, one cannot be acclimated to enslavement void of any personal benefits except by the most bestial brutality, on top of keeping the captives ignorant and focused on only the most immediate of needs and basest of impulses.

And then there’s the honor system they use to manipulate the slaves to police each other as you pointed out. You actually made a connection that most folks don’t, in how the guards used the honor squads to police the disciplinary squad. It’s the same dynamic at play in how race was invented and has been used to play one sector of workers in the capitalist system against others.

“Whites” receive “honor squad” treatment (certain privileges and special consideration and advantages) over people of color, whom as you noted are more directly targeted with “disciplinary” treatment at the hands of the state (selectively applied criminal laws, prosecutions and imprisonment). And even those whites who don’t reap the benefits that their skin is supposed to ensure them, can be seen to fall back in the last resort to the fact of simply belonging to the honor squad (the “white” race). Like the poor antebellum white dirt farmers, many of whom were worse off than the Black slaves, would remark, “I may not have nothin’ but at least I ain’t a nigger.” And like the honor squad they had free rein to use violence as a medium of proving their “superior” status and venting their frustrations, which the oppressors taught them to vent against the disciplinary squad, to divert that anger away from the source of both groups’ fucked up situation. These are the sorts most susceptible to the racist indoctrinations of the ruling class and whom you see clinging most desperately to racism and reactionary racist behavior. For them this was the only thing left to give them a sense of social worth and meaning. I see it all the time, those with the lowest sense of social and self worth and the greatest sense of insecurity are the ones who cling most tenaciously and openly to racial doctrines, whether white racism or the reverse racist doctrines that have sway among people of color, that polarize them against not just “whites” but also against other people of color.

The need for a sense of social worth has been found to be greater in many people than the sense of need for personal safety. So we can understand why racism has proved so intractable, and so effective a ruling class tool of social manipulation and polarization (divide and conquer) of the working masses.

It’s imperative that the slaves of all “colors” come to recognize we’re all exploited by a common oppressor and beneficiary, and the apparent privileges that one sector enjoys over others are just crumbs and con with which they’re manipulated to preserve the enslavement of us all.

All Power to the People!
Panther Love!

Rashid

 

Notes and post-August 19th Commentary

[1] http://therealnews.com /+2/story:18675:Millions-for-Prisoners-Human-Rights-March-in-D.C.-set-for-August

[2] Quoted in Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (Harper Collins; NY, NY 1999), p. 458. Malcolm X also exposed and criticized this sellout of the planned 1963 siege in his speech “Message to the Grassroots,” given on November 10, 1963, http://teachingamerican history.org/library/document/message-to-grassroots

[3] No prison work stoppage occurred in concurrence with the August 19, 2017 March.

[4] The August 19th March in DC had a sister march in San Jose, California. Based upon reports of comrades who attended the D.C. March, there was a “disappointingly small” attendance – only around several hundred people attended. They expressed feeling the low attendance was due to lack of broad outreach to progressives and others in the lead up to the march who could have given it broad publicity. Also, there was a substantial infiltration of Black cultural nationalists, one of whom prevented a comrade from giving an invited speech by taking up the comrade’s allotted time railing about all white men being the real problem – so, as Jason feared, our voices were not heard and other agendas came to replace them.

[5] Our Party first advanced this agenda in 2006, see Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, “A Modest Proposal for the Abolition of Slavery in the 21st Century” (2006) http://rashidmod.com/?p=478

[6] Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, “No Incarceration or Taxation Without Representation: Amerikan Slavery in the 21st Century” (2011) http://rashidmod.com/?p=321

[7] I give an analysis of the Ruiz case and the pervasive abuses in Texas prisons in Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, “U.S. Prison Practices Would Disgrace a Nation of Savages: Texas – A Case on Record” (2013) http://rashidmod.com/?p=1007. The major rulings in the Ruiz case can be read at, Ruiz v. Estelle, 503 F Supp. 1265 (S.D. Tex. 1980); Ruiz v. Johnson, 37 F. Supp. 2d 855 (S.D. Tex. 1999); and Ruiz v. Johnson, 154 F Supp. 2d 975 (S.D. Tex. 2001).

[8] Building Tenders were prisoners who were used by Texas prison officials as inmate guards, and enforced their power through open violence, rape, extortion, etc. and were allowed by officials to use and possess bats, knives, pipes and other weapons. The use of these inmate guards, also known as turnkeys, was outlawed by the 1980 ruling in the Ruiz case. See note 7, above.

[9] As Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit federal appeals court stated in 1996, “It is an open secret long shared by prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges that perjury is widespread among law enforcement officers.” The late and renowned civil rights lawyer Johnnie Cochran, revealed the same, observing that cops are “comfortable lying in a courtroom because the system always tolerated [their] lying; judges look the other way and jurors [are] supposed to accept it.” Johnny Cochran, A Lawyer’s Life, p. 111.

[10] My first exposé on prison abuse that was also one of the first reports used by Fed Up!, was my 2004 article, “Red Onion State Prison, an Exposé: Racism and Brutality Equals Kind and Usual Punishment in Virginia.” http://rashidmod.com/?p=176

print

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *