After causing a stir with his performance on “Saturday Night Live,” rapper Kanye West took to social media to add a little more fuel to the criticism and called for the abolishment of the 13th Amendment.
“We will no longer outsource to other countries. We build factories here in America and create jobs,” West tweeted. “We will provide jobs for all who are free from prisons as we abolish the 13th amendment. Message sent with love.”
The 13th Amendment, ratified in 1865, abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, “except as a punishment for crime.”
The rapper’s comments invited a slew of controversy from former NAACP president Cornell William Brooks, actor Chris Evans and many more.
West returned to Twitter to clarify his statements, adding that “the 13th Amendment is slavery in disguise meaning it never ended.”
Atlanta rapper T.I. offered his own thoughts on Instagram.
“While I disagree with most of the (expletive) that Kanye says and his rants I must say that the part about trying to amend or abolish the 13th Amendment I actually agreed with,” Atlanta rapper T.I. said in an Instagram video amid the chaos. “And not because I think that slavery should be instilled. No, because the 13th Amendment says that slavery should be abolished unless in prison.”
The constitutional verbiage, he added, “incentivizes mass incarceration” and “increases the amount of scrutiny put on us and the laws that affect us differently than they affect white people.”
“There’s a reason why this was written into law,” Dennis R. Childs, an associate professor at the University of California at San Diego who has studied the history of black incarceration, told the Washington Post. “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.”
Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner, an anti-slavery Republican, also had a problem with the wording when the amendment was up for debate in 1864, according to the Post.
“To my mind [the words in the exception clause] are entirely surplusage,” Sumner said at the time. “They do no good there, but they absolutely introduce a doubt.”
The senator proposed changing the language of the amendment to remove the “exception clause,” but his urges were dismissed by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Current 13th Amendment
Section 1. 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.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Sumner’s proposed change, dismissed in 1864
All persons are equal before the law, so that no person can hold another as a slave: and the Congress shall have the power to make all laws necessary and proper to carry this declaration into effect everywhere within the United States and the jurisdiction thereof.
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