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Three Capital Sins

[caption id="attachment_5325" align="alignright" width="169"] Blog by Sr. Mary Ellen Bennett[/caption] Recently I read Slavery by Another Name by Douglas A. Blackmon, (2008, Anchor Books, Pulitzer Prize for General Non Fiction 2009). Reading it felt like a forced march through a terrible time of our history. I was frustrated, disgusted, shocked, and humbled by my ignorance of the time described. I was deeply saddened to realize that some of the American History we studied in school was Fake News. We learned about slavery, even the evils of slavery, in a partial, distorted and cleaned-up version of the reality. We were taught that the Emancipation Proclamation “freed” the slaves, but nothing about the “Age of Neo-Slavery” that thrived from the aftermath of the Civil War (a.k.a. the “War of Northern Aggression”) through the dawn of World War II, predominantly in the Old South. After the Civil War the number of “free” black people posed a terrible threat to the Southern economy and status quo. Powerful white supremacists successfully addressed this by brutally arresting blacks on often trumped-up charges of minor crimes, and after a sham or no trial, sentencing them to become indentured servants to the opportunistic capitalists who paid their inflated court fees and fines. These unjust sentences extended until the “criminals” worked them off, frequently under inhumane conditions. Terms were often unjustly extended. These “prisoners” picked cotton (by the ton), worked in mines, cleared forests, made bricks, treated iron, and built roads in chain gangs, all grueling work and mostly under sub-human conditions: nakedness, filth, starvation, epidemics, unconscionable beatings, and near total denial of their humanity. I finished the book on the World Day of Prayer Against Human Trafficking. Trafficking is similar to the post-Civil War peonage in many ways: capture, “ownership” threats, violence, rape, and forced addiction. The evils of slavery and trafficking bring to mind our national crime of shameful treatment of “illegal” immigrants: separation of families, unjust imprisonment, vindictive sweeps of neighborhoods looking for victims, trumped-up charges of mostly petty crimes, sham trials and sentences, and worse, deportation. This is a cruel form of human subjugation for the crime of being “other”—another misguided criminal attempt to “Make America Great Again.” I often wonder what is the motivation to engage in behavior that denies the humanity of another; behavior that engages in violence and sin. I think of fear, early childhood trauma, derangement, addiction, discordant emotions. But they don’t fully explain these instances sub human inhumanity to other humans. How can we come to realize that we are all brothers and sisters, all members of God’s family, and that the Reign of God is among us?

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