Around the world Florida is known as a tourist attraction, with Disney World and the seemingly endless white sandy beaches and picture perfect sunsets. Each year the state of Florida spends millions of dollars to commercially produce and distribute this wholesome image of only what they want the obviously gullible tourists to see.
But for those willing to look beyond that deliberately deceptive image of that Florida they proudly show the world, those willing to scratch beneath the surface and look beyond will see the state of Florida for what it truly is...one of the last remaining bastions of the traditional "Old South", a place where the insidious traits of good-ole-boy Southern traditions remains stead-fasted maintained and arguably funded by the ignorance of the tourists that blindly flock to this glorified sandbar.
The problem with the progressive evolution of any society is that only too often it will forget it's own dark history, and even worse, it will rewrite that history and future generations will be lulled into a false sense of ignorance and as they say, when we don't learn from history we are condemned to repeat it. And when that dark history again plays itself out, either then that chorus of voices rising up to oppose it's resurrection, too many pretend that it doesn't exist, just as that proverbial elephant in the room.
I would challenge you to take a moment to reflect on those characteristics we commonly relate to as the dark days of slavery. Let there be no mistake, Florida was unquestionably a willing participant of slavery and basked in that mentality that so completely pervaded these confederate states. Although most tourists would never see the remains of this undeniable history, it does continue to exist. Even to this day all one would have to do is get off the main highways and head into the "backwoods" and it would be like stepping back in time. That "redneck" attitude continues to prevail throughout most of Florida, only now they've twisted it around to conveniently label it "southern charm", and the tourists eat it up!
But beyond the more tangible images of slavery and the South's long history of oppression of minorities, what is it that truly defines that "slave mentality"? It's not the Southern plantations, or the sugar cane fields where masses of minorities suffered as slaves while making their rich white masters that much richer. These physical images of the human deprivation and misery were the products of that slave mentality, not the cause.
Only when we tale a moment to contemplate on that mentality that allowed these atrocities to be committed do we then realize that although federal law has forced the Southern states to presumably abolish slavery and end segregation do we've really done was push this evil beneath the surface and in an out-of-sight-out-if-mind slight of hand, it really continue to exist today.
to illustrate this truth I must first confront the myth that slavery has been abolished in the United States. Although that is what America would want the rest of the world to believe, it actually is not true at all. Those actually familiar with the constitution know that although in the late nineteenth century, after years of bloody civil war in which the Northern states (union) fought the Southern states (confederate)and the North won and the United States constitutionally abolished slavery in it's most obvious and "traditional" form.
But before you believe this myth, you should take a moment to reread just what the constitution actually says. Specifically, although slavery in its most obvious form was abolished, the constitution continues to this day to allow the "forced servitude" (i.e. "slavery") of those convicted of 'high crimes and misdemeanors'. Seriously, don't believe me - just look it up!
What this means, and our courts have consistently recognized, is that anyone who has been convicted of a criminal act can be forced into slavery. For many generations after the civil war ended and slavery was supposedly abolished, when a prisoner was convicted and committed to the Florida prison system, Florida would actually sell that inmate to private parties to be used as slave labor. It was only in 1932 under Florida governor Hardee that this practice of selling prisoners as slaves was brought to an end.
But although Florida does not openly sell prisoners anymore, they do continue this practice to this day. Although Florida ranks third in he number of prisoners incarcerated in a state prison system, numerically trailing behind only California and Texas, what must be taken into account that both California and Texas have significantly larger populations than Florida.
When you apply a common sense analysis, what you quickly discover is that Florida with slightly over 18 million citizens and a prison population now exceeding 111.000 inmates, Florida now incarcerates more of its own citizens than any other state, and if Florida was its own country, Florida's rate of incarceration would easily exceed that of china, North Korea and Iran! (do the math!)
Florida's prison system is a multi-billion dollar industry in which private companies make many millions of dollars each year of the exploitation of prisoners and anyone willing to simply conduct even superficial investigations into public records documenting political campaign contributions will find that these private companies donate millions of dollars into
the election committees and individual campaigns of these bought-and-paid-for politicians...it is all documented in public records!
But scratch just a bit more beneath that image they promote and one will discover within the Florida Department of Corrections exists its very own quasi-commercial subsidiary they laughingly call PRIDE (Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises). Anyone who exercises the incentive to go online and look it up will find that under the pretense of providing "jobs" to prisoners the state of Florida itself "employs" tens of thousands of Florida prisoners across the state in factories owned and operated by "Pride". Those inmates are paid no more than a few pennies an hour - nothing more than a token wage intended to allow the state to claim they are not technically slaves.
The many products manufactured or otherwise produced by PRIDE are then sold to other state agencies and only too often then sold to companies for profit. If an inmate is assigned to work in a state owned PRIDE factory, and refuses, he or she is subjected to harsh disciplinary action and often thrown into long term solitary confinement known as "closed management" for many years. At any time the Florida prison system continuously keeps approximately ten thousand inmates in this long term solitary confinement status, until they're mentally broken and willing to work.
The slave mentality is pervasive throughout not only the prison system, but throughout the entire state of Florida. It has often been argued that the death penalty itself is an extension of that traditional slave mentality, and it is not just a coincidence that capital punishment is overwhelmingly popular in these Southern states. Virtually every former 'confederate" state continues to fanatically embrace the death penalty and executions are only too often carried out with that same rabid hysteria one would associate with the historical image of a lynch mob.
While the rest of the country has increasingly expressed its growing opposition to the death penalty, Florida's response was and is to push even harder for both newly imposed sentences of death and a record number of executions. How many people realize that the state of Florida now sentences more people to death than even the state of Texas?
Already this year alone (from January 2014 thru April 2014) Florida has executed four inmates - two were black, one was Hispanic and one was white. When a recent "botched execution" in Oklahoma (May 2014) called for a nationwide moratorium on executions until a full review of the process could be completed. Florida's response was to sign yet another death warrant on a black man, John Henry, of course it's just a coincidence that yet another black man was lynched.
The Florida death penalty process is the most visible proof of the continuation of that "slave mentality" that the Old South was known for. Irrefutable statistical evidence is readily available to prove that racism is the deciding factor in the majority of the death sentences imposed. Quite simply, if you're convicted of killing a white person in Florida, your chance your chances of being condemned to death by an all-white jury is significantly greater than if the victim was black.
But how many people are aware of the indisputable fact that Florida is the only state that allows a sentence of death to be imposed upon nothing more than a simple majority vote by the jury? Every other state that continues to practice capital punishment requires that a sentence of death can only be imposed if all 12 jurors agree that death is the appropriate punishment. Incredibly, the courts have consistently refused to address this issue despite numerous opportunities to do so.
The indisputable fact that Florida has also wrongfully convicted and condemned more innocent men and women to death than any other state, again exhibiting that indifference to basic concepts of human dignity that define that Old South slave mentality.
Considering how inherently dependent Florida is on the multi billion tourism industry it continues to amaze me that international groups committed to opposing violations of basic human rights have not organized a campaign to boycott Florida tourism. But then again, maybe I shouldn't be so surprised as Florida has succeeded in concealing these irrefutable practices and when it comes down to it, very few care enough to look beneath this image ...just ask yourself this - do you care?
Michael Lambrix #482053
Union Correctional Institution
7819 NW 228th street
Raiford, Florida 32026