New slavery

by Joseph Debro

Prisoner-by-Getty, New slavery, Abolition Now! This country used Christianity to justify slavery when it had to import slaves. This was such a thin veil of justification, it finally fell of its own weight. During the 20th century, sons and daughters of former slaves joined with sons and daughters of former slave owners and developed a new justification for slavery. This new form of slavery is more deadly and more subliminal. All of us, both descendants of former slaves and descendants of former slave owners, seem to be comfortable with accepting this new form.

Now rather than use Christianity we use the new form of insanity. We use the so-called justice system. We help the descendants of former slave owners develop laws that enslave us.

As I have written on many occasions, “LAWS ARE ENACTED TO CONTROL THOSE WHO ARE TOO POOR TO BREAK THEM.” Our prisons are crammed full of Black people who were too poor to buy justice. The community of the poor is economically constrained by its inability to violate civil law without consequences.

Wall Street was rewarded when it violated civil laws and dumped our financial system into the toilet. Poor people were vilified for accepting money used to generate fees for banks. The people who signed the front of checks vilified poor people for signing the back of those checks as a consequence of loans that both knew would not be repaid.

I digress. The injustice system enslaves Black people for life. We do nothing. We help enact laws that aid and abet the enslavers.

The more glaring enactment is the disparity in sentencing between coke users and crack users. Blacks use crack. They get longer sentences. Whites use coke. They get shorter sentences. Cops arrest and courts convict Blacks at a much higher rate. Whites who take cars are accused of joy riding. Blacks are accused of grand theft auto.

A felony conviction for a Black offender is a life sentence. It is a sentence to the underclass for life. Who is going to hire a Black man who is a felon? Felons can’t vote. They have no rights. They are locked into the underclass for life.

They have fewer privileges than did slaves. Slaves were fully employed. They had a health care plan. They had a retirement plan. Those of us who are descendants of former slaves are complicit in the new enslavement.

We do not raise our voices in this matter. We do not challenge this injustice in our courts. We do have a cause of action. We do have standing in this matter, yet we do nothing.

When a person is convicted of a crime which designates him as a felon, that conviction should have a finite term. It should not be a prison term followed by a lifetime with no privileges. Lawyers in our community can and should challenge the constitutionality of this practice.

We should ask the attorney general of the state of California to challenge this unjust practice. Those of you who have political standing should insist that the courts examine this practice and those laws that enslave many Black people.

Joseph Debro is president of Bay Area Black Builders, co-founder of the National Association of Minority Contractors, a general engineering contractor and a bio-chemical engineer. He can be reached at