What does Kanye (Ye) West actually mean by "Abolish the 13th Amendment"?

  • On his Saturday Night Live appearance on the 29th of September 2018, Kanye West spoke on "abolishing the 13th amendment". (This may have been stewing for a while, but that is when I first became cognizant of it.)

    13th Amendment
    Section 1. 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, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
    Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

    Clearly (I believe) he doesn't desire a literal return of race-based slavery. What indications in his other statements and material are there on his actual meaning?

    this represents good and America becoming whole again. We will no longer outsource to other countries. We build factories here in America and create jobs. We will provide jobs for all who are free from prisons as we abolish the 13th amendment. Message sent with love

    Screen capture of original source

    Isn't this just artistic freedom, rather than some serious policy proposal?

    I would like to point out that this question is very close to the line of questions we allow regarding the political opinions of celebrities.

    @PieterGeerkens In this particular case I would allow the question because it's more about the 13th amendment than about West. I just wanted to point out that this question does not set a precedent for allowing *any* questions about political opinions of musicians.

    @Philipp: Got it.

    @Philipp I would distinguish this question differently. The question is asking to clarify a political position. This should be on topic regardless of how one learned of the position in question. But we should also recognize that someone who is a musician (or any other kind of celebrity) can also be a political figure.

    Isn't Saturday Night Live a comedy show?

    @colmde Yes it is - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturday_Night_Live Arguably the preeminent night time entertainment show in America though it airs weekly whereas other night time entertainment shows usually air daily (nightly). It has been airing since 1975.

    @TylerH - My point is, if it's a comedy show, then why take anything that Kanye West says on it seriously? Wouldn't it just have been part of the comedy?

    @colmde I remember people saying that about Trump, then he became president.

    @colmde SNL has comedy skits but they also have interviews and retellings of the news; it is formally known as a 'variety show'. It is not 100% satire.

    @colmde He also made the same statement (of abolishing the 13th amendment) outside of SNL, lending credence to the notion that it's not a satirical statement.

  • He seems to have meant amending it (quote below) to remove the clause permitting slavery and forced labour as punishment for a crime.

    So let us ask this possibly dicey question: What, exactly, was Kanye trying to say?

    There is a fair chance he was referring to what’s called the 13th Amendment’s “exception clause,” as many speculated on Twitter. It’s the part of the amendment that literally allowed slavery and involuntary servitude to continue across the country, on plantations and within the barbed-wire fences of prisons. Scholars and prisoners’ advocates argue that its impact is still felt today through prison labor.

    The argument is that:

    • The criminal justice system is strongly biased against poor black people.

    • These people wind up in prisons that are run for profit.

    • Part of the profit made by these prisons comes from forced labour by black people.

    • That profit is partly spent on lobbying for increased use of prison as a penalty for crime, thereby ensuring a steady stream of profitable inmates.

    • Hence this is a continuation of the enslavement of black people under the guise of criminal justice.

    Did West actually say this, or is the WP guessing that he meant this? (I can't read the article itself, as it's behind a paywall; If West did indeed clarify himself, do you mind including a small quote?)

    @tim WP is speculating, but Kanye's clarification seems to imply that's where he was heading.

    @tim - WP is guessing. A more logical explanation is that Kanye heard a bit about the 13th allowing slavery, didn't look deeply enough into it to properly educate himself on the subject, and thus was wandering around with the idea in his head that the 13th legalized slavery, and should be abolished. This is the danger in having political opinions about things you don't fully understand.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM