If this long weekend means there’s a movie night on your calendar, 13th is an essential addition to your watch list. This powerful documentary about systemic racism and the prison industrial complex will have you crying, infuriated and, most of all, motivated to make change. Today’s #DailyRevolution is to watch “13th” as a way to inform yourself about mass incarceration in the United States.
The film’s premise hangs on the 13th Amendment, and unpacks how this amendment, celebrated by most as marking the end of slavery, includes a loophole allowing a certain rendition of slavery to carry on. The 13th Amendment states that, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” In other words, slavery was abolished for everyone except criminals.
Through interviews with Michelle Alexander, Henry Louis Gates, Angela Davis, and others, writer and director Ava DuVernay shows in 13th how mass incarceration exists on a continuum that starts with slavery and Jim Crow. When Jim Crow laws crumbled in the 1960s under the pressure of the Civil Rights movement, Nixon’s Southern strategy and “law and order” campaigns were developed as an alternative approach to ensure the continued practice of systemic subjugation of black Americans. Soon after, Reagan's “War on Drugs” and Clinton’s 1994 crime bill had the U.S. on a tirade that would bring us to the point we’re at now: having the highest incarceration rate in the world with a disproportionate number of African Americans imprisoned.
Find “13th” on Netflix. And when you’re done watching, take a deeper dig into the issue of mass incarceration in the U.S. by revisiting parts 1 and 2 of our Incarceration Nation posts, which explore the difficulties faced by women within the criminal justice system and suggest ways of supporting women’s rehabilitation.
Ava DuVernay’s 13th Reframes America’s History - The Atlantic