About this sample
About this sample
Words: 725 |
4 min read
Published: Feb 8, 2022
Words: 725|Pages: 2|4 min read
Keywords: African American,American Civil War,Black people,White American,Slavery,United States,Racism,Race,Criminal justice,Punishment,Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The "13th" documentary, directed by Ava DuVernay, provides a profound exploration of the thirteenth amendment and its implications on the intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the US. This amendment was crafted to abolish slavery, yet, as the film highlights, there are exceptions to this clause, notably that slavery is outlawed except as a punishment for a crime. My reflection on the 13th documentary offered a deepened understanding of how today’s prison and labor systems can be seen as continuations of historical practices akin to slavery, especially when viewed in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Slavery was abolished for everyone except criminals; consequently, a black person can be re-enslaved which DuVernay shows how slavery is still present in our practices today. Since the end of the American Civil War, actions such as criminalizing behavior and enabling police to arrest poor freedmen are examples of this. Similarly, African Americans were arrested for things like loitering which goes to show how there is a disconnect in our justice systems. In this film, they describe how mass incarceration in the prison system presents a negative reaction to the Civil Rights Movement. The prison system continues to be racist and violent, in ways that are continually evolving and not necessarily improving. Since the 1940’s, the amount of prisoners were rising and still continues today. It’s sad to see that the more we see the protests for rights increase, the harder the political system fights back in their defense. They do whatever they could to punish blacks, finding the most absurd reasons to do so, with means of imprisonment. 13th demonstrates that criminalization continues to be apart of our society today and has been a constant feature of racism. One of the facts that really stood out to me in the film was that “1 in 3 African Americans will go to jail in their lifetime, while 1 in 17 White Americans will go to jail.” There is a drastic difference in the numbers between the two races, representing how unfair the criminal justice system is and how racism is still heavily present.
Something interesting to note was the storytelling aspect in this documentary. The use of storytelling helped bring to life the reality of the legacies that the thirteenth amendment and slavery has in black communities and how that is still very visible today. This method ultimately reeducated the American society and challenged white America’s notions of democracy, justice, and equality. In the film, Malcom X noted that “History is a people’s memory, and without memory, man is demoted to the lower animals.” There are many lessons of history in this film which I believe serves as a wake-up call for America and for us to claim the humanity and rights that has historically been abandoned. Some may even argue that we do not commit unspeakable atrocities today, however, the past has a way of informing the present. Though we don’t intentionally go out of our way to dehumanize African American people or prisoners, we still in a way, mean it, and even more, when the media exploits these black men.
This film unpacks a lot, at the same time, works its way to our current day situation and the gut wrenching moments of African Americans being shot by police enforcement who supposedly used the “stood their ground” excuse. This film makes me question if African Americans were ever truly “free” in our country, and if slavery was every really abolished. It’s a constant cycle; once one method of racism fails, another one seems to immediately takes its place. There’s no question that we are freer than what we were before, but it still begs the question of whether or not we will ever be completely “free.” I wonder if there will ever be a day where we see peace and all segregation, discrimination, and other forms of racism go away. Lastly, I think the most important lesson I learned here is that change doesn’t come from politicians or the government, but from us, the American people; at the end of the day, we are the only ones big enough to create change. This documentary educated, inspired, challenged, and exposed me to the legacies of the thirteenth amendment in hopes that the white American society will begin to humanize itself sooner, rather than later.
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