‘Laws and policies have been designed to keep Black people on the margin’

By  Carlton Joseph

Carlton Joseph

For Black History month, I decided to spend some time with the history books.  One of the most striking revelations which I noted was that leaders of countries, small groups of rich individuals, and politicians have always tried to extract free or cheap labor from the masses of people, regardless of their race.   History also shows that whether in a monarchy, democracy, plutocracy, or any other form of government, the masses always supply the labor and the leaders reap the rewards.


The masses are in a perpetual struggle; they have organized, revolted, and marched in order to improve their condition. But it seems that they make two steps forward only to be set back by laws and policies generated by politicians and the ruling class.


As early as the sixth century BC, in Athens, Greece, debt bondage/slavery existed. A person would pledge labor or services as security for the repayment of a debt or other obligation, when they may have been no hope of actually repaying the debt.  The services required to repay the debt and the services’ duration could be undefined, and so  debt bondage could be passed on from generation to generation.


From the seventh century, Africans were taken from the Middle East, North Africa and India to supply the demand for domestic servants, primarily women, who often married their masters or had their children. Later, the transatlantic slave trade, involved mostly African men who were captured and forced to work on plantations and in mines. It has been estimated that the transatlantic trade comprised twelve million people.

Constant in this practice of slavery were the slave uprisings, rebellions and revolts against the system and the punishments of the participants by the slaveholders.

In 1865, slavery was abolished in the United States but the capitalists and politicians had become so used to free labor that they used the legal system to ensure that free and cheap labor would be available. The 13th amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and provided that “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.”  Once convicted, you could be enslaved.

Black people must understand that laws and policy reinforce each other and in order to “beat” the system they must understand them. Let’s look at the issue of reparations. For many years, Black people have been trying to obtain reparations. The legal system is built on the foundation of precedence. So they have cited cases where various races – Jews, Japanese and others – have received reparations.  Why can’t Africans get reparations?

The answer is that Africans were and still are considered property, and property cannot receive reparations.  After all these years, racist leaders refuse to acknowledge Africans as human beings. But the act of paying reparations will acknowledge that Africans are human.  To them, Africans will always be property to be used and disposed of, as they desire.

Today over three per cent of the Black population in the United States is incarcerated.  The laws and policies have again worked to ensure a slave workforce. An article in The Economist magazine reports that: “Prison labour is legally required in America. Most convicted inmates either work for nothing or for pennies at menial tasks that seem unlikely to boost their job prospects. “The article also notes that at the federal level, the Bureau of Prisons operates a program known as Federal Prison Industries that pays inmates roughly $0.90 an hour to produce a range of items -mattresses, spectacles, road signs and body armour for other government agencies, earning $500m in sales in fiscal 2016.

This is the reality for incarcerated Black and Brown people- slavery by any means necessary. Their goal therefore must be to destroy the system that is determined to enslave them.  They must focus their energies on: Education, Entrepreneurship, Finance and Community Development.

Living in a capitalistic dominated world; people must understand the stock market and use it intelligently to create wealth for your family and community. The community must pool your resources and only bank with institutions that would lend you money when it is needed to start a productive enterprise. You must stop being recognized as consumers and begin to be recognized as producers of goods and services that people require.

Blacks people must not allow the powerful to determine their destiny. Laws and policies have been designed to keep Black people on the margin, to keep them in the ghetto, and to deny them employment opportunities. We must circumvent these laws and policies by changing the results they anticipate. Poverty must be used as a motivator to create the future you envision for yourselves by educating yourself and working with lawmakers to introduce laws that level the playing field for the Black community.

Black  people must understand today’s technology and recognize its positive and negative impacts and educate our children on its use. Recent reports indicate that the overuse of social media is a global problem impacting all generations, and research has shown that substantial Internet usage can have a highly negative impact on our mental and emotional health. Children are negatively impacted, just by being Black. So we must warn them of the negative impacts of social media like Facebook, Twitter and others and discuss the issues with them.  We must retake  our role as mentors and inform them that the genuine human experience of being able to communicate in person, network in person, and form relationships with others outweighs the negative impact of social media.

The Black struggle has been going on for centuries and Black have demonstrated that they can survive any obstacle that has been placed in their path.  We are now at the final obstacle to our total emancipation.  We must, in the words of Marcus Garvey, “Free our minds from mental slavery, None but ourselves can free our mind.”

We must free our mind from inferiority complexes, consumerism and any other malady that negatively affect us.

We must stop believing that Black people are like “crabs in a barrel,” because they have been communicating and relating to the struggles with other Black and Brown people in various parts of the  world for centuries. When “Black Power” became the rallying cry in the Civil Rights movement in the United States, Black people in all parts of  the world were “All In,”  pulling for and lifting each other in a meaningful way to the liberation of all Black people.

Believe in yourselves, dream great dreams and be confident that you have the ability to achieve them.

(Trinidad-born Carlton Joseph who lives in Washington DC, is a close observer of political developments in the United States.)