I want to start by saying that 13TH by Ava Duvernay is an amazing documentary, but I mean, when it comes to Duvernay, the woman behind Selma, we don’t really expect anything less.
The documentary starts out by explaining the 13th Amendment, which was the amendment that formally abolished slavery, but there was a loophole. The loophole said that if someone committed a crime, they could lose their freedoms and could become enslaved, yet again. The documentary moves on to say that immediately after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, blacks became targets for the police and law enforcement. It explained that blacks were arrested for countless petty crimes in the time after the Civil War, which lead to them becoming slaves–I mean–criminals.
The documentary goes on for about an hour and a half and within that hour it explains how black Americans are no longer slaves, but instead they are now criminals. It talks about the way white people decided to categorize blacks, the way they portrayed them, discussed them and associated with them. It explains that the criminal justice system was set up with the absolute power to disproportionately affect blacks (and other people of color). Instead of slaves, black people are now criminals. We see this to be true when we look at the amount of black men that die at the hands of police. We see it in our education systems when black students are stripped of the services they need to positively impact their way of learning and thinking. We see it when white women feel the need to start a story with, “…and there was this HUGE black guy, I mean HUGE…” We see it when whites clutch their pearls in the presence of black people, and we see it when white Americans forced themselves to believe that our nation’s first black President was an “illegal alien.”
“Black men make up 6.5% of the population, but account for 40.2% of those incarcerated.”
As a level-headed person, which is how I like to think of myself, I can see and hear these things and understand that everything the documentary discusses are facts. There are facts to back these statements and beliefs up. No one pulled these notions out of thin air. But as I watched I realized there are some people that refuse to believe it. People refuse to connect the past to the present. People refuse to acknowledge that there could be any negative connections between what my people went through previously and how we move through society today. I often wonder how someone can see the plight of my people and not weep? I wonder how someone can feel so removed from the pain and torture of an entire race and think nothing of it? I’m not asking anyone to say they understand, but I am asking for a little bit of empathy.
“Likelihood of white men for life imprisonment is 1 in 17.”
“Likelihood of black men for life imprisonment is 1 in 3.”
In the end I loved it, but at the same time it made me sad. I loved it so much, but to be completely honest, why wouldn’t I have? I love viewing things that affirm the notions and things that I believe. I love when the educated speak on the issues in a way that I can’t match, but can certainly attest to. The issue lies in the fact that I’m not the person that needs to love 13TH. The bigots, the small-minded, the ignorant, the angry and the racist need to see this documentary and love it. 13TH confirmed many things that black people already knew: Richard Nixon was trash, Ronald Raegan was the devil, and Bill Clinton was practically his spawn. But 13TH gets the white, the silent and the angry riled up and confused, as if they couldn’t fathom that one group of people could do this to another.
My people have constantly been forced to accept a world that we continue to be handed and spoon-fed and tricked into believing is a world for us. I believe that understanding and accepting that this country was never created to benefit us is the first step to invoking change, and 13TH forces us all, black and white, to begin down that path of acceptance.
Overall, 10/10 for 13TH