Should we amend the 13th Amendment? | The Tylt

Should we amend the 13th Amendment?

Kanye West once again weighed in on the legacy of slavery in the U.S., but this time, he may have a point. Unlike his last statements—claiming slaves allowed themselves to be enslaved—his recent comments about amending the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the country, have some writers and scholars debating its merit. Opponents say West is ignorant about history and society, and the whole conversation is moot. Supporters say the amendment is deeply flawed and should be revisited. What do you think?

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West—who also announced over the weekend that he wants to be known only as Ye—sent the controversial tweets after an appearance on "Saturday Night Live" where he performed while wearing a Make America Great Again hat and gave an impromptu speech in support of conservative politicians.

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The backlash against West was, as usual, swift and intense. Celebrities like Lana del Rey and Chris Evans took to social media to decry West's statements. Per Rolling Stone:

In the comments of West’s Instagram post, Del Rey – who performed at West and Kim Kardashian’s wedding in 2014 – criticized the rapper.
“Trump becoming our president was a loss for the country but your support of him is a loss for the culture. I can only assume you relate to his personality on some level. Delusions of grandeur, extreme issues with narcissism,” Del Rey wrote.
“If you think it’s alright to support someone who believes it’s OK to grab a woman by the pussy just because he’s famous-then you need an intervention as much as he does.”
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West clarified his statements later, saying he meant the amendment should be amended to remove the "exclusion clause." Per CBS News

On Monday, the rapper appeared on TMZ Live to clarify his comment. He said that he wanted to "amend the 13th," because it allows enslavement or involuntary servitude for those who are in prison. 
"Abolish was the wrong language," he said. "I misspoke. Amend is the right word."
The 13th Amendment "translates to: in order to make a freed man a slave, all you have to do is convict them of a crime," said West. "There's people getting paid $0.08 a week working for companies that are privately owned and a lot of them are first-time offenders. A lot of them are nonviolent crimes. And then also we deal with, we're not dealing with the mental health and the therapy."
West argued that most inmates are in prison "due to a reaction to a situation they're in—a reaction to not having an understanding to, of how to create an industry because their dad didn't have a business, so they didn't know how to make money."
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Historians pointed out that without the 13th Amendment, no laws exist to expressly ban slavery in the United States. Per Time

West’s tweets seem straightforwardly paradoxical, as the 13th Amendment, which was ratified Dec. 6, 1865, abolished slavery in the United States. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction,” it reads. Along with the 14th and 15th, it is part of the group of “Reconstruction Amendments” that helped determine how the United States would function after the end of the Civil War.
Abolishing the 13th Amendment would eliminate constitutional safeguards against slavery, a fact that prompted widespread backlash to West’s initial tweet, including from his fellow celebrities. But West is not the first to see the amendment as problematic.
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However, the 13th Amendment includes an exclusion clause which gives states the right to keep citizens in slavery as "punishment for crime." The Washington Post explained how the clause was included to placate southern states and has been used to allow the continued practice of enslavement in the United States.

The amendment was the first of the three Reconstruction Amendments passed in the aftermath of the Civil War, designed to extend constitutional rights to African Americans and former slaves, including citizenship and equal protection under the law in the 14th and voting rights in the 15th. (The 14th Amendment recently celebrated its 150th anniversary, but it was muted, in part because it took more than a century of oppression of blacks before it had any serious impact, scholars say.)
The 13th Amendment was proposed in part because of well-founded fears that the Supreme Court might nullify Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
But the exception clause of the 13th Amendment was a “convenient sleight of hand,” said Dennis R. Childs, an associate professor at the University of California at San Diego and author of “Slaves of the State: Black Incarceration From the Chain Gang to the Penitentiary.
Prisoners have been protesting this clause for decades. In August, prisoners in 17 states launched a three-week strike to protest being forced to work for meager wages in contemptible conditions — all of which they traced to the 13th Amendment’s exception clause. Last year, advocates for prisoners launched a march on Washington in which they called for the “end to prison slavery.”
...“There’s a reason why this was written into law,” Childs said. “They needed to have a legal cover for [re-enslavement], and the best way to do that was to use [African Americans’] poverty, landlessness, joblessness — their collective dispossession — and the Jim Crow legal system as an excuse to re-enslave that population.”
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NPR explains how the 13th Amendment's exclusion clause has been exploited by the justice system in this country.

That the resulting incarceration of black men has been monetized, with black men put to work against their will. Think roadside chain gangs, or more recently, corporations helping "rehabilitate" inmates by paying them pennies to make sports uniforms. The movie's list of companies that have benefited from cheap inmate labor is long, and damning.
That's also true of its recounting of how the War on Drugs created imbalances after "separate but equal" was otherwise banned. Mandatory sentences identical for one ounce of crack cocaine (used mostly in inner cities), and 100 ounces of powdered cocaine (the drug of choice in white suburbs). It's a policy now condemned not just by prison-reform activists, but by such unexpected voices as law-and-order advocates as Newt Gingrich.
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Some commenters said West's message is muddled and lost because he is the medium. Vox delineates the ways that West has continually misspoken and inappropriately spoken on the topic of race and slavery in the United States, thus making his point moot. 

Rather than a comment highlighting the issues created by the exception clause, West called to abolish the entire 13th Amendment, attracting far more concern. Even when he clarified that he thought this part of the amendment should be amended, his remarks were light on the details, and didn’t show that he truly understood his mistake.
...Kanye West has always thrived on ego and controversy, and at a time when marginalized groups openly express anxiety under the Trump administration, his comments and support of the president are getting a lot of attention. West continues to project the belief that his remarks show his persuasive genius and advanced thought. Instead, his remarks call attention to just how little West actually understands about slavery.
FINAL RESULTS
Politics
Should we amend the 13th Amendment?
#KeepThe13th
A festive crown for the winner
#AmendThe13th