Slavery still exists today in America.
That is the principle idea behind the Netflix documentary 13th. 13th focuses on the United States prison system as well as informs viewers on the issue of mass incarceration. Mass incarceration is the increase of inmates, usually African American, in the late 20th century and early 21st century. The idea of mass incarceration dates back to the times of slavery though.
Even though the 13th Amendment “abolished slavery,” like all legislation, there was a loophole. Section 1 of the Thirteenth Amendment reads “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment of crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” This statement basically means you will have your rights as a citizen UNLESS you commit a crime.
Back then, this Amendment probably made sense, and it may make sense to many readers now. After this Amendment was created though, the criminalization of people of color began. It all started with the famous film Birth of a Nation which depicted African American men as rapists of white women. At this time, African Americans weren’t seen on TV. To depict people of color though, “blackface” was created. Birth of a Nation also beautified the creation and existence of the Ku Klux Klan.
Even though this film is seen as controversial now, back then it was a blockbuster, and everyone loved it, including President Woodrow Wilson. This film, however, sparked the negative depictions of African Americans, especially men, in different aspects of media. As the documentary progresses, it shows other examples of systemic oppression in the United States of America like lynching and the drastic increase in mass incarceration of African American men. It also shows the dehumanization process of the U.S. prison system as well as the mistakes made by law enforcement.
So if you are passionate about civil and human rights or just want to learn more about American history, check out this documentary. There are quite a few graphic images in this film, but sometimes people have to be shocked into action. This film doesn’t sugarcoat (or whitewash) history. It provides people with the historical context to understand powerful moments in history like the Civil Rights Movement as well as the Black Lives Matter Movement of today. History repeats itself, so if you remain uneducated about some of it, it can very well repeat itself. Until next time though…
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