Posted 22 days ago
At the same time that I can't believe people had to go through with this, I also know it's true. Human nature is cruel. Resentment fostered horrifying conditions for Black Americans. In the South, those who thought that the world was changing around them unleashed their cruelty as prison guards. It's apalling that there is anybody who would do these things to another human being, but we are a cruel people when left unsupervised.
I know this is a minor point in Rembert's essay, but he says:
The chain gang is one of the most ruthless places in the world. The state owns prisoners, so there are rules and regulations, but the county owns the chain gang, and there are no rules and regulations.
I wholeheartedly believe that the South pushed for independence, and pushes for "state-rights" until today, because there are bad people who want to do bad things behind a drawn curtain. I'm a Southerner, and I know many Southerners who believe in state-rights without being bad people (who in fact are very good people), but it's impossible to pull this sentiment apart from the historical record. They either do not see the harm, or choose to ignore it, that these efforts for little government oversight have caused people.
The state acts as an abstract body to ensure justice and fairness. Of course their are single actors that make up the state, but America is an incredibly diverse nation, and having state oversight allows people to call out and signal injustices that may have gone hidden in the past, where local and regional bodies, largely comprised of a single powerful group, decided unilaterally what could or could not be done.
Reading Rembert's essay makes me so disgusted that anybody could treat another human that way. It makes me ashamed of my country and history. As he says, it was not too long ago. Less than a century, and when many of our parents or grandparents were alive. It's clear that we cannot depend on the good-will and independence of individuals to do the right thing, so how can we build a government to make sure things like this might never happen again?