The 13th Amendment allows slavery on the condition that one has been convicted of a crime. Dehumanization is dehumanization, no matter what line of reasoning we use to justify it in our society.
When I watched "12 Years A Slave," it chilled my bones to see the same look of evil in the eyes of the slaveholder that I have seen in those of the prison guards who openly deny that we as prisoners are human beings, while joking about the "good old days" when they could abuse and whip us with impunity. My blood ran cold when I recognized the same cowering fear in the slaves’ eyes that I have seen in the eyes of inmates who were threatened with transfers away from their friends and family to the violence-ridden prisons hidden away from public view simply because they didn’t walk in a straight line and the warden happened to be angry that day. And in the main character’s struggle to hide the fact he can read and write, and to obtain pen and paper to free him, I see my own struggle to smuggle computer science textbooks disallowed by the prison administration over ten years ago. I am a computer programmer and a writer, facts I must hide for fear of losing my job and being transferred to the same killing field as the poor victim mentioned above.
The fact is, the violent, belligerent slaveholder in that movie would be promoted to the top ranks of our prison system. Although there are many blessed exceptions, his very same attitude and behavior only slightly modified by (deteriorating) legal protections permeates these institutions, justified by a voting public who are in fact complicit in this sin.
Slavery exists. I am a slave of the state. The law of our land upholds it.
No matter how thoroughly I repent and seek to live a productive life in peace as one who would give back to those I harmed, I am forever consigned to this treatment, to these stressful and insecure conditions, because that is what the people of Tennessee want. The hand of the slave owner and the threat of violence from my fellow slaves are the desired weapons of retribution and oppression in the hands of good citizens all over the U.S.
How long O Lord?