Week 6 Reflections

One important thing to considering when thinking about the legacy of slavery today is the fact that it was primarily an economic system; a system of free labor. Shifting too far away from this would have been severely damaging to the status quo, as such numerous ways of continuing to exact free or cheap labor have been employed in the meantime. One of the most glaring ways this is achieved, most notably in the United States, is through the prison system. The 13th amendment states that slavery is illegal except in the case of an incarcerated person. As such, we see a significant prison boom during the early Jim Crow era, with similar occurrences happening under Nixon, Reagan, through to today, where the US has the largest prison population on the planet. Furthermore, even after being released, many people are felons, or are on probation, meaning they are unable to vote, to leave the country, to collect food stamps, etc. This has an extremely disproportionate effect on black communities. Although the means have changed, this system echoes much of the state of affairs under slavery.

Another post-slavery legacy we see in the Americas is a significant resistance to the labor movement in its many forms. This manifests itself in numerous ways. For some background: many workers in an industry like mining will find themselves living in a company town, buying from a company store, going to a company doctor, etc. Often they receive wages that barely cover these expenses, and either fall into debt with the company, or are unable to save (as one would try to do in an ideal system of social mobility). Some would consider this to be ‘wage-slavery’, meaning that, while a worker is getting paid, their agency largely amounts to being able to decide whether or not they/their family would like to starve to death, which one could argue is not much of a choice. Furthermore, when workers movements have gained momentum, we frequently see the entire apparatus of the state being employed in order to crush these movements, often violently.

Perhaps we could say that the legacy of slavery in the Americas today manifests itself by continuing to deny the worker, and thereby society, the fruits of its labor. Instead this labor disproportionately benefits the individuals and organizations that enjoy a monopoly over the means of production.

1 thought on “Week 6 Reflections

  1. roberto pelayo mazzone

    I 100% agree with your response. Minus the physical punishment of slave owners on slaves not much has changed. People who are of the lower class are forced to work in certain jobs that benefit their employers and barely put food on the table for the workers families. Its a shame how some people who have the most honourable jobs in the world are the least fortunate out of the global population.


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