Black History Month: 13th

Since the start of Black History Month, we have heard of the heroes and heroines of all shapes and ages that fought or justice and equality in the United States. Well, I have recently watched a documentary on Netflix that I recommend others to watch, and I encourage audiences to take something out of the film like thinking about how the film changed their perspectives or a fact that blew their minds.

One day, as I was surfing through the options on my list of movies and TV shows, I stumbled upon 13th. In all honesty, I completely forgot why I placed the selection in ‘My List’ in the first place, but I am glad that I did. Before clicking the ‘play’ button, I thought that it was going to revolve around the 13th amendment and slavery from the time that it was legal. I was not completely wrong, but the actual result surprised me a bit.

Directed by Ava DuVernay, 13th is about the rights of criminals in the United States, and why we as a nation have deduced those people to that mindset and environment. Released in October of 2016, the first few minutes of the documentary discussed slavery and the 13th amendment, but it focused on a clause in said amendment that I did not realize existed (1). Apparently, the amendment states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction” (2). Since it is stated that a punishment should be taken on a crime convicted by a person, then that person’s rights should be taken away—at least, that is how I interpreted it. By committing a crime, a person is being sent to prison and treated as an less-than-equal individual just as slaves had been treated.

While watching the film, my mouth did not close for more than a few seconds because the amount of information unbeknownst to me was unbelievable! For example, some of our ex-Presidents were part of the reason that most African American people (mostly males) had been arrested for drugs—and some of them were innocent! Another shocking fact that I learned was that from the 25% of people incarcerated in the WORLD, about 5% are in the United States! Throughout the documentary, many activists and

I felt like certain events and statistics shown in 13th had not ceased to differentiate from the norm of today, but I still have hope that people want a change. In time, maybe prisoners and those that were wrongly incarcerated will have won some of their freedoms back again.

I have learned that the fight for civil rights has not ended, but has only been modified and placed under a different name.