I started writing this post two nights after watching 13th, the new documentary by Ava Duvernay. That was 2 weeks ago. I admit I was scared to watch it at first. One of my best friends brought it to my attention and commented how upsetting it was. While I am keen to educate myself on social issues, I was hesitant to expose myself further to media that highlights the injustice black and brown people face in this decaying system. It makes me feel powerless.
I will try to restrain myself and not detail everything that 13th exposes. I will let you decide to educate yourself. I will simply detail my experience watching it.
I am glad I did watch it. 13th is about the criminalisation of black and brown lives and the prison boom. 13th features numerous scholars, activists and politicians who are all interviewed by Ava Duvernay on the relationship between the 13th amendment and mass incarceration.
Things I did not know
I did not know what the 13th amendment was nor did I fully fathom its devastating effects on black and brown people in particular. Did you know that forced free labour is legal under the 13th amendment if you are deemed a criminal? I use the term criminal loosely because as this documentary revealed there are millions of people confined to prison cells who have never stood trial. Thousands are in prison due to bogus charges imposed upon them by corrupt law enforcement. Others have committed crimes but their crimes have never been brought to trial and therefore an informed sentence has never been imposed.
The 13th amendment is celebrated by the naive. It abolished slavery and made it illegal to force involuntary servitude upon people. The irony lies in the fact that after abolition, the subsequent economic crisis gave the American government the perfect reason to exploit the following loophole ”…except as punishment for crime” and this is how they managed to enslave black and brown people once again. America make up only 5% of the world’s population and yet 25% of them are imprisoned. This means that 1 in 4 Americans are in a cell right now. This is a shocking statistic that 13th will not allow you to forget.
What struck me was the reality that most people imprisoned in America are too poor to get out. They are in prison because they cannot afford to pay their bail. They have not been found guilty in the court of law. There has been no trial. Thereby they will rot in a violent and unsafe environment. This includes the innocent. There is a vast difference between the poor and innocent and the rich and guilty. Be brave and google the name Kalief Browder. This innocent young man served 3 years in prison, for bogus charges, because he could not afford the $10,000 bail. His story is devastating.
Ava Duvernay interviews scholars, activists (the majority who have been imprisoned for their beliefs) and politicians who give their expert opinions on mass incarceration. The activists and scholars reveal the relationship between the slave trade and mass incarceration as we know it today. The key role politicians played in creating this prison system that is heavily monetised and biased towards black and brown people – Nixon, Clinton and Reagan – is explored in detail.
The juxtaposition of listening to Trump’s rhetoric from 2016 interspersed with real footage of black and brown people being beaten up, arrested during protests and lynched is nothing short of frightening. These scenes will not fail to wake you up. We are repeating history. We have not learnt from the past.
13th is a phenomenal documentary. I watched it 2 weeks ago and I’m still reeling from the experience. What it further proved to me is how corrupt worldly politics is, it proved without question that slavery never truly ended and how its reform into a heavily monetised prison system targets black and brown people disproportionately and finally the sad truth that this system was never designed to be equal and fair to all people.
In short this is not a system to invest in. If you know me personally you will understand what I mean.
I want people to watch this documentary and prepare for their beliefs, opinions and preconceived notions of what it means to be innocent or guilty to be shattered beyond repair.
Please let me know what you thought of 13th in the comments below.
Love blackpistachio x