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Handmaids Tale: A Shape of Things to Come

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Handmaidstalesamira.jpg

So I've been enthralled in this new show. A tale of an American Christian theocratic government that has, within a few years sent the society back 250 years. Women are outlaws if they read, everyone has to be some type of fanatic christian, death is around the corner for anyone who aint on board. I really can't stop watching! The fact that there's very few Black people make me enjoy it more. Either we all went to Canada/into hiding, or they killed us all for non-compliance. Personally, I'm good with whichever. I really don't like seeing Black people on screen being mistreated, cooning, or suffering extra horrid deaths ala "The Walking Dead".

In hiding or dead?

When asked about chattel slavery in America, most people say that they wouldn't go it. "Couldn't be me! I'd be doing X,Y,Z and them crakkas would have to kill me!" These revolutionary spirits would kill Massa, burn the house down and take guns and swords to officials that got something to say. I dunno how true all that is tho. History does show that most people would in fact go for the 'okey doke'. They'd also just do their best stay alive. Saying very little, following orders, not making waves, etc. Even if one forgets how most Black people behaved during the American enslavement period, and just looked at the present day state of Black life in America, with Mass incarceration alone, and the fact that Black people locked up at at least 6x the rate of everyone else, there's all the reason to for Black men and women en masse to be taking up arms against the American government. It's so bad that some researchers have compared modern American incarceration to that of Aparteid era South Africa[1]! Rarely however, does a Black man or woman do that though. You get a errant mad Black person here and there (Bless up to Korryn Gains & Lovelle Mixon) but it's rare. Mostly there's Black folks just doing what they can to stay above water, working to make no waves.

Imprisoned at a higher rate than in Apartheid South Africa?

According to the good folks over at "The Sentencing Project" a group that has been researching the use of prisons in America for over 30 years[2], near the end of the Apartheid regime in South Africa, for every 100,000 people in the country, 368 of them were behind bars. At that same time, in America, the number was 519. Not too much of a difference, but when you broke that down by race and gender the numbers become somewhat more telling. At that time, In SA, Black men were imprisoned at a rate of 851 per 100,000, while in the USA the rate was more than 6x that. 3,822 per 100,000! Fast forward to today, the rate for imprisoned Black men is 4,347 per 100,000[3]. Ever rising. Broken down even further (Just for number's sake) Black men aged 20-40 are locked up at a rate ~9000 per 100,000. In other words almost 10% of Black men aged 20-40 are behind bars right now! All them Black men in the bing, Black folks aint taking it to the weapons, so somebody lying somewhere.

Couldn't be ME!

Bringing it all back to this hot new show, Black Folks in reaction to Americana notwithstanding, I still say I wouldn't go for it! As I watch this show, I feel a tinge of inspiration. It makes me want to work out, get my gun game up, weapon game up, etc. I imagine living in the mountains or in some maroon community having skirmishes with the officials of the theocracy, stealing a Black Handmaiden or Black Driver, and bringing them back to the maroon camp. Reeducating them, to join in on the skirmishes. As I go through these daydreams I get to thinking, and debating within myself, whether or not this sort of setting could really come to be? Specifically, could it happen to Black people in america? Could we go careening 150+ years back in time?

Is the return of the Bad ol' days in America Possible?

As far as I understand the limits to Black folk's freedom in the USA there are 2 barriers to reconstituting chattel enslavement.

  1. The Emancipation Proclamation
  2. The "Reconstruction Amendments"
  3. Black people's unwillingness to be enslaved again

The Emancipation Proclamation is a presidential executive order that was instituted in 1862. Simply said, the institution of Slavery that was practiced in the south was outlawed in any of the southern states that were rebelling against the union. Since it was only a proclamation, Black folks were only freed from the plantation as the union army swept through the south.

The Reconstruction Amendments (13, 14 & 15th Amendments) are a set of protocols that the US Gov't signed into law before and after the civil war, ostensibly making the practice of enslaving people, illegal. It also made the only type of legal slavery, that of imprisoned criminals. Thus introducing Jim Crow and chain-gangs all over the country.

The Thirteenth Amendment (Amendment XIII) to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. This stands today, that's why folks in prison are able to work for pennies per hour.

The Fourteenth Amendment (Amendment XIV) defined that a citizen was any person born in the USA, and that it discriminating against a person on the basis of skin color or any other physical characteristic was illegal.

The Fifteenth Amendment (Amendment XV) to the United States Constitution prohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude".

Could the E.P. and Reconstruction amendments be reversed?

Without a doubt! those laws could be reversed just as easily as they were put into law. Article Five of the United States Constitution details the two-step process for amending the nation's frame of government. Amendments must be properly Proposed and Ratified before becoming operative. An amendment may be proposed and sent to the states for ratification by either:

  • The United States Congress, whenever a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives deem it necessary;

-OR-

  • A national convention, called by Congress for this purpose, on the application of the legislatures of two-thirds (currently 34) of the states.

To become part of the Constitution, an amendment must be ratified by either (as determined by Congress):

  • The legislatures of three-fourths (currently 38) of the states, within the stipulated time

-OR-

  • State ratifying conventions in three-fourths (currently 38) of the states, within the stipulated time period—if any.

After that, what would be left is several years of harsh oppression, and murdering of people who refuse to comply. It sounds like a dystopic scifi future, but there are a lot of people who would love to hear that its legal to abuse people.

In the Handmaid's Tale, every episode people are shown getting murdered, wheelbarrowed to the town center and burned, or just hung until dead. No one country would be able to step in because 20k nukes could be pointed outward. At the same time, 310+ million guns would be pointed inward.


Now, there's an amendment that's been on the books since the 1860's called the Corwin Amendment. This basically states that congress can't outlaw slavery, or any other "domestic institution". Again, that could be passed as easily as the reconstruction amendments were.

Scary what-if's but not impossible.


  1. https://static.prisonpolicy.org/scans/sp/abb.pdf
  2. http://www.sentencingproject.org/about-us/
  3. Mauer, Marc (1994). "Americans Behind Bars: The international Use of Incarceration 1992-1993" (PDF): 8. Retrieved 2017. 



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