Kanye West was facing backlash after writing on Twitter that the 13th Amendment should be abolished. That’s the constitutional amendment that outlawed slavery in the United States. It also stipulated that using prison inmates as laborers was legal.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Kanye West Shared a Picture of Himself in a ‘MAGA’ Hat Along with the Suggestion That the 13th Amendment Be Abolished
West posted the message Sunday afternoon, September 30. It includes a photo of him wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.
The post reads, “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.”
This followed West’s appearance on Saturday Night Live the evening prior, when he praised President Donald Trump and received mixed reactions from the audience. He also wore the red “Make America Great Again” hat for much of the performance.
2. Ye’s Tweet Quickly Triggered Backlash, Indignation and Some Defense on Social Media
It did not take long before West’s original tweet went viral. It has been “liked” more than 59,000 times, shared by more than 14,000 followers and generated more than 16,000 comments.
Many commenters referred to West’s post as “ridiculous” and questioned whether West was aware that the 13th Amendment made slavery illegal. Examples included:
“What???? Abolish the 13th amendment? You do know what that means right?”
“You’re not even close to being as smart as you think you are. But please, carry on.”
“Kanye West, who said slavery was a choice, just called for the abolition of the 13th amendment. This is just terribly sad. The college dropout Kanye used to inspire young black men, myself included, and now he’s embracing a President that hates them.”
“Uncle Tom says what?”
Others focused on his statement about outsourcing jobs to other countries. Lisa Banaszak posted a photo of the inside of a ‘MAGA’ hat. The tag includes the words “Made in China.”
Another commenter wrote, “I don’t know where you’re getting your #FakeNews from, but, I’m one of at least 60 people who is losing his job to outsourcing by the end of the year. After 18 years, I’ve been asked to help train our replacements.”
A few posters pointed out that the 13th Amendment allows for prisons to use inmates as laborers. A Twitter user with the name “aleexxaandro” wrote, “Just to bring about some resolution in the thread; the 13th amendment NEVER abolished slavery, but renamed slaves to criminals. & our brothers and sisters in the system for a crime they may or may not have committed pay the price everyday. RE-READ THE 13th AMENDMENT.”
3. West Attempted to Clarify The Post With Follow-Up Tweets, Stating That Slavery ‘Never Ended’
Kanye West shared additional tweets to try to clarify his original statement. But he did not specifically mention inmate labor in his follow-up messages or talk about outsourcing jobs overseas.
He wrote, “”the 13th Amendment is slavery in disguise meaning it never ended We are the solution that heals.”
About 20 minutes later, West added, “not abolish but. let’s amend the 13th amendment. We apply everyone’s opinions to our platform.”
4. The 13th Amendment Formally Outlawed Slavery and Was Ratified By the States in 1865
The 13th Amendment was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864. The House formally approved the measure in January of 1865. President Abraham Lincoln sent the proposal off to the states for approval. Three-fourths of the state need to approve an amendment to the constitution. It was ratified on December 6, 1865.
The 13th Amendment reads:
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.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
5. The 13th Amendment Allows for Prisons to Use Inmates as Laborers and It’s a Common Practice in the United States
The criminal justice system allows for inmate labor. The 13th Amendment stated that convicted criminals can be forced to work. It does not stipulate whether inmates must be paid for their services.
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, inmates are paid on average about 86 cents per hour for non-industry prison jobs. Inmates may be put to work for state businesses or work for the prison itself. Newsweek reported that about half of the nation’s 2.3 million incarcerated people do some form of daily work.
In August of 2018, inmates in at least 17 states went on strike. They refused to work and some declined food, as a way to call attention to poor living conditions at correctional facilities and to protest what some view as “exploitative” labor practices.