Quentin Tarantino on U.S. Drug Policy: ‘It’s Just Slavery Through and Through’

In an interview with a Canadian talk show, director Quentin Tarantino blasted America’s drug policies, saying that they are creating a system of “slavery through and through” at the behest of a prison “industry” which seeks to keep them in place solely to make money.

Tarantino’s comments came in response to a question from CBC host George Stroumboulopoulos who had asked him to put his latest film project, Django Unchained, a movie about a freed slave in the 19th century, into a contemporary American context. Tarantino warmed to the subject, apparently thinking that having directed the film gave him some sort of insight into race and America.

After acknowledging that “things have gotten a lot better” in most people’s daily lives, Tarantino moved on to the bashing:

“But on a bigger level, it’s very depressing. This whole thing of this war on drugs and the mass incarcerations that have happened pretty much for the last 40 years, has just decimated the black male population,” he said. “It’s slavery, it is, it’s just slavery through and through. And it’s just, it’s the same fear of the black male that existed back in the 1800s.”

Apparently to Tarantino, enforcing laws that demand prison time for offenses is the same thing as slavery. But he wasn’t finished yet. He then cited his experience from directing Django Unchained as somehow relevant to his point:

“Especially having even directed a movie about slavery, and you know the scenes that we have in the slave town, the slave auction town, where they’re moving back and forth. Well that looks like standing in the top tier of a prison system and watching the things go down.”

Perhaps there are some visual similarities between transporting slaves and transporting prisoners but to equate a system where people were deliberately forced to stay somewhere and work for someone else for no pay simply because of their race with a system where convicted lawbreakers are being punished for their crimes is completely absurd.

After having made that comparison, Tarantino launched into a conspiracy theory rant against the so-called prison industrial complex, alleging that it was “an industry” which seeks to incarcerate as many people as possible simply to make money:

“Literally all the reasons that they have for keeping this going are all the same reasons they had for keeping slavery going after the whole world had pretty much decided that it was immoral,” he said.

“It’s an industry, and what are we—and one, what are we going to do with all of these people who are let loose—these black people—let loose and two, what are we going to do about all of the people who make money off of this industry?

One wonders what Tarantino would say if he learned that the prison guard unions are perhaps the biggest power broker in the portion of the economy of which he spoke.

Full transcript of Tarantino’s comments is below:

On a day-to-day—day in, day out basis for most people in America, it’s okay. Things have gotten a lot better. People are a little too sensitive to talk about stuff and that’s a drag but, you know, that’s the way it is.

But on a bigger level, it’s very depressing. This whole thing of this war on drugs and the mass incarcerations that have happened pretty much for the last 40 years, has just decimated the black male population. It’s slavery, it is, it’s just slavery through and through. And it’s just, it’s the same fear of the black male that existed back in the 1800s. And there’s a reason, especially having even directed a movie about slavery, and you know the scenes that we have in the slave town, the slave auction town, where they’re moving back and forth. Well that looks like standing in the top tier of a prison system and watching the things go down.

And between the private prisons and the public prisons, and the way prisoners are traded back and forth. And literally all the reasons that they have for keeping this going are all the same reasons they had for keeping slavery going after the whole world had pretty much decided that it was immoral. [...]

Because it’s an industry, and what are we—and one, what are we going to do with all of these people who are let loose—these black people—let loose and two, what are we going to do about all of the people who make money off of this industry?

HT: Meenal Vamburkar

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013