Terrance Heath

Everything is NOT Slavery

Filed By Terrance Heath | June 20, 2009 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: health care reform, national service, slavery

Finally, somebody said it. It's been on my mind to say for a while now, but I never got around to it. Finally now, somebody else has said it. So all I have to do is say, "Amen."

After months of hearing everything from national service programs, to the stimulus, and even health care reform to slavery, somebody finally said it. That somebody being brooklynbadboy at DailyKos.

Got it? SLAVERY is like SLAVERY. It means someone OWNS YOU. It means if you are a female slave, your owner can take away your children and sell them, forbid to speak your native tongue, or even rename you to indicate whose property you are, among other horrors.

THAT is what Slavery is. Do not compare it to going without health insurance. Do not compare it with not being able to get married. Do not compare American Slavery with anything other than real people who are currently enslaved. Black people find it offensive to our ancestors.

Thank you, dammit! (Of course, the funny thing is that conservatives who call all of the above slavery have a peculiar habit of defending slavery in the first place.)

None of the above is slavery.

Slavery looks more like this.

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And like this.

Got it?

For starters, slaves didn't get much (if anything) in return for their work other than subsistence level food and shelter.

The proposed national service program doesn't read much like a slave contract in that light.

Obama and Biden will call on citizens of all ages to serve. They'll set a goal that all middle school and high school students engage in 50 hours of community service a year, and develop a plan for all college students who engage in 100 hours of community service to receive a fully-refundable tax credit of $4,000 for their education. Obama and Biden will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.

Do people read this stuff or think about it before they start spazzing?

"Setting a goal" doesn't sound like a requirement. And no "slave" would get anything resembling $4,000 (to go towards education, at that) for 100 hours of work.

Health care reform isn't "slavery." Not only that, but a system in which our out of pocket costs have got up 34% in three years, where the uninsured face an avalanche of costs, the rest of us shell out an extra $1,000 a year to pay for the uninsured, health care costs may hit $2.5 trillion this year (about $8,000 per person), and we're spending $2.3 trillion and still not getting what we pay for isn't exactly what I'd call ideal. Nor would any other sane person.

Note to conservatives: Wanna be taken seriously? Stop screaming words like "socialism" and "slavery" and maybe start offering actual solutions.


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Yeah, some gay people have trouble picking the right analogy. They should be referring more to post-slavery discrimination. And even then, the discrimination outside of interracial marriage was different; neither discrimination being worse than another.

However, for black people to smugly tell white gay activists that their inability to marry is nothing compared to slavery reeks of ignorance. If you're going to compare the extreme historical situations, you might want to go back to being hanged/burned/stoned upon discovery, and persecution of homosexuals predating the invasion of Africa by Europeans.

Lucrece, I don't think Terrance was specifically calling out white gay activists here. And if he did, well, I'm personally prepared to state for the record that my troubles as a white queer woman with a lot of education and a supportive micro-culture are, in fact, nothing compared to slavery.

Not only that, but it's frankly pretty offensive to claim that somehow the European colonization of Africa massively improved things for African queer people. (I know absolutely nothing at all about how queer people were treated in pre-colonial Africa, and I'm still sure the European invaders weren't doing anyone a favor.)

Saying something doesn't resemble [slavery/the Holocaust/the Native American genocide/insert your calamity of choice] doesn't mean it's totally fine; it just means to grow a sense of proportion, and choose metaphors that illuminate rather than alarm.

Back to the various government benefits which also don't resemble slavery: the $4000 refundable tax credit for 100 hours of community service amounts to $40 an hour. Unless Republicans are prepared to claim that paid work is wage slavery (a la Karl Marx). In which case, game on.

Obviously, nothing in today's America compares to slavery. If you make comparisons on slavery-era America, you have to make appropriate comparisons, though. And that's what I was pointing out when you and others make a comparison of slavery and your current situation; you should be comparing your current situation to the situation of other contemporaries.

And who stated that European colonization improved the situation in Africa?

And pardon me if I don't follow the discussion, but those comparing our situation to slavery are very few. The more direct comparison is the civil rights era. And don't kid yourself for a moment that most black people take offense for the comparison because it trivializes their suffering (and that's quite an offensive line of thought as well, which trivializes the suffering of gay people). It's simply a case of the power of the black churches not wanting to admit association with homosexuality.

But, yeah, this was mostly about Republicans moaning about taxes.

Yeah, that stuff isn't slavery. Then again when they started a postcard campaign after prop 8 to its donors, Republicans called that "violence." They don't really have much perspective.

I have used the term "wage slave", "slave labor" etc. and i will not be asking for your permission on how to express myself Terrance. GOT IT?

Scott Imler | June 24, 2009 2:22 AM

I have to agree with Terrance on his underlying premise, whether the comparison is to slavery, civil rights, or historical context: gay and black struggles are fundamentally different.

Your family doesn't disown because you were born black.

pastor scott