Last night I finally got around to watching Ava DuVernay’s film 13th on Netflix. It chronicles the rise of mass incarceration in the United States since the 1960s, and makes the argument that the the “except for punishment of a crime” exemption of the 13th amendment of the Constitution has created a de-facto modern slavery for people of color. I highly recommend watching this important film.
This past week Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama was confirmed as Attorney General. In his confirmation hearings, he vowed to uphold our laws, even ones he disagreed with, and even if it meant disagreement with the President. He specifically distanced himself from a voter fraud case he brought against three black civil rights workers in the 1980s (as detailed in the letter that Senator Warren would have read from Coretta Scott King had she not been silenced), and promised to uphold the rights of all citizens. Given his concerning track record, one has to hope that these commitments are genuine.
I know he’s no longer an elected representative, but after watching 13th, I felt compelled to write a few postcards to the Department of Justice on the topic of two groups of people who I am concerned could suffer greatly under his term as Attorney General. As a supporter of Trump’s take on “Law and Order”, I think we can be pretty well assured that Sessions won’t do much to reduce racially-biased mass incarceration. But it still seemed worth mentioning. I tried to keep my comments focused on actionable collaborations between the DOJ and other agencies (i.e., not legislative action).
I’m also deeply concerned about Attorney General Sessions’ expected hard-line approach to immigration enforcement. 13th suggests that Immigrant Detention centers are likely the profitable market for corporations that run jails. I wrote a postcard to this point also.
I’m not sure this an effective tactic, but in case anyone else would feel better trying to reinforce the priorities of social justice with our new Attorney General, here are some printable postcards:
Special thanks to the Amplifier Foundation and the artists whose work they have supported for the downloadable art. Shepard Fairey did the poster on the bottom left, Mata Ruda did the poster in the top right.
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001