Sunday, June 26, 2011

Slavery Returns to Georgia

'Cotton Pickers', oil painting on panel by William Aiken Walker

In an appalling "solution" to Georgia's self-inflicted farm labor shortage, Nathan Deal, the Governor of Georgia has decided that he can conscript parolees to work the fields in lieu of the migrant workers he drove to other states through the draconian HB87 Anti-Immigrant Law.
He will use parolees, whose conditions of parole include "following all instructions from the parole officer, (and) gainfully working." He and Gary Black, Georgia's agriculture commissioner, are working closely with the Georgia Department of Corrections to fill the cotton fields of Georgia with "voluntary" workers.

Over 60 percent of the 26,000 people on parole in Georgia are considered "non-white," according to the Board of Parole--compared to about 40 percent of Georgia's population as a whole. An older study by the Georgia Board of Parole and Pardons found that Georgians are twice as likely (10.2 percent) to go to prison at some point in their life as all U.S. citizens (5.1 percent). A Black man in Georgia stands a 38.5 percent chance of going to prison, compared to the 28.5 percent of the national average.

Given the disgusting history of chattel slavery in Georgia, it's shocking that Gov. Deal would be so openly racist as to suggest this as a way forward for Georgia agriculture. However, this is in keeping with his support for racial profiling enshrined in HB 87.
A similar law is in the works for Wisconsin which, if enacted would likely scare undocumented workers to other states leaving Wisconsin farmers, especially dairy farmers, perilously short of labor.  I can see Walker emptying the Huber facilities and shipping the inmates off as indentured servants to the powerful  dairy lobby to ensure the milk keeps flowing.

Racism and bigotry caused this problem and Georgia is betting that doubling down on the racism and bigotry will solve it.  I'm betting not.

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