‘13th’ tackles U.S. incarceration


Daulton James Jones, Reporter

This month Ava DuVernay and Netflix blessed us with the ultra-woke documentary “13th”; the movie follows America’s mass incarceration epidemic and race in the United States criminal justice system. DuVernay is previously known for her award-winning work on the movie Selma and her latest project on the OWN Network, Queen Sugar. Now she can add this documentary to her growing résumé.

DuVernay has said that she started working on “13th” after she finished Selma. One of the main reasons why she made it was because mass incarcerations were something that she and many African-Americans and Latinos grew up with. One day someone is living their life, and the next day they’re in jail. What can you do? Well Ava made “13th” to spread awareness to the public because many people don’t actually know about mass incarcerations.

The documentary covers many generations, presidents, and movements throughout our existence as a country, beginning with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, all the way to 2016 with videos of police violence victims. At the opening, we see a picture of the globe which soon highlights America, and President Barack Obama speaking in the background. He said, “Americans have five percent of the world’s population, and 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated people are here.”

That was just one of the many harsh statistics that we had to hear in this documentary. How every decade the prison rate kept rising by the hundreds and thousands, and who was going to prison, such as how one in ten white American males will end up in jail but one in four African American or Latino males will end up in jail. The movie also touched on Nixon’s crime bill that was meant to target black and hippie communities to tear them apart and make them comply.

“13th” also says that even though Nixon started the crime bill and the war on drugs, President Reagan is the one who put it into action, creating the current war on drugs we see today. “13th” says that this was targeting black and Latino communities, and tearing their families apart.

In “13th” it also tells us where they think the predatory persona of the black man was conceived. With the film “Birth of a Nation,” and not the Nat Turner movie that was just made, but the much older black and white film, every image of a black man (which mind you were all actually white actors in blackface) is almost animalistic in nature, and antagonizing white women.

It also touches on how this film alone was the reason for the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan, and is also where they got the idea for burning crosses.

“13th” also delves into the current state of America’s race problems, and shows the videos of many victims of police violence starting from Trayvon Martin going to as recent as Philando Castille. This part of the film is definitely not for the incarceration

faint of heart because it is truly heartbreaking to see the final moments of so many people that could be your friends or family members. Also at the end of the film, DuVernay does allude to the fact that the next people to be targeted by mass incarceration are the immigrants as she shows videos of many politicians giving their anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Also, don’t turn off the credits at the end, as she leaves you with happiness and possibilities of hope. Overall, this documentary was truly heart-breaking, mind-boggling, informative, and inspiring. I suggest everyone watch it.