Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The More I Know (cue rainbow)

I don't want to add any real thoughts to NY Governer Spitzer's prostitution scandal (maybe just to point to my jaw on the floor), except to note this almost unnoticable little bit from The LA Times coverage:

The client (Spitzer) allegedly paid for Kristen to take a train from New York to Washington, where he was staying that evening. Transporting prostitutes across state lines is a felony under the 1910 federal Mann Act.

A FELONY?! Just for taking a three hour train ride?

So in 1910, something happened that made congress pass a law outlawing pro's moving from state to state...weird. But why would states be so protective of their prostitutes as to make interstate sodoconomy a felony? It's not like NY State is making money off hooker taxes she earned in DC or anything. Curious as to the odd outcome of what must have started as a reasonable law, I went agoogling.

According to Wikipedia, the law was instated to prevent white slavery. Specifically, the law was a response to some national scandals of white women being abducted and turned into prostitutes. In other words, it wasn't like a turf war of the ho's as I'd hoped/imagined/envisioned-the-movie-plot-of. [My version would have given whole new meaning to the word "carpetbagger."]

This Mann Act turns out to be the same one used to jail Jack Johnson - subject of the great PBS doc "Unforgivable Blackness," about how he beat so many white boxers it freaked everyone out, forcing them to use this law to jail him. In his first accusation, Johnson had a favorite ho who happened to be white. He later married her (awww), but another white hooker accused him later of taking her across state lines and this time he was jailed (awww).

Interestingly, and upon further research, this particular law against white slavery was meant not just as a measure against commerical sex, but all "immoral" sex with travel. In other words, to stop people from taking "private romantic getaways." Harsh.

Another famous accused was blues legend Chuck Berry, and though he was charged much later than Johnson, I'm inclined to think the law is only about anti-miscegenation. [Cue the show "COPS" with the Marley tune lyrics changed to Jim Crow Jim Crow, Whatchya gonna do?]

Which brings us back to Spitzer. I know he won't be jailed for this, but it's funny to think the law designed to fuck with black men sleeping with white women could bite this guy, in the butt:

An odd kind of poetic justice...though I kind of liked the guy.

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