OPINION: It's time to strip 'Black Codes' from the U.S. Constitution

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley addresss a crowd of about 150 at Barnes Butte Elementary on Saturday., Central Oregonian - News Saturday town hall in Prineville covers health care, political division, election security and more Merkley meets with Crook County residents

America was founded on beautiful principles of equality and justice. And our nation was also founded on horrific realities of slavery and white supremacy. If we are ever going to fully deliver on our founding principles, we have to directly confront those gruesome realities.

One deeply disturbing reality is that when our nation ratified the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery, it included an exception. In the second clause, often referred to as the "Punishment Clause," are the words that allowed thousands of Black Americans to be re-enslaved during and after reconstruction, and set off a chain reaction that has destroyed the lives of generations of Black Americans: "except as a punishment for crime …"