“…When someone asks me about violence, I just find it incredible because what it means is that the person who’s asking that question has absolutely no idea what black people have gone through…”
In Ava DuVernay’s documentary, the truth is exposed behind American prison systems. Rather than wars on crimes or wars on drugs, the war that has taken place in The United States for generations is a war between white and black. After the abolition of slavery with the 13th amendment, petty crime became an easy excuse for racist white people to keep black people in their place – behind bars, without freedom.
America has a systemic racism problem. There’s really no need to argue about that, or to make excuses for this behavior. We currently have a president that is openly racist. As a white person, I can’t speak for black experiences, but I can do my part to turn the volume up on black voices so that the one-sided conversation can shift to include the voices of people of color, who have been systemically silenced by racist laws.
This is a sociologic idea that suggests that what you call a person, or what you call a group of people, can shape how that person or group of people behaves. An easy example is verbal abuse; if someone is told repeatedly that they are stupid, studies show that the person, often of normal or even above average intelligence, will suddenly demonstrate their stupidity with poor decision-making, bad grades, or lack of motivation.
One of the most compelling aspects of 13th is that the film shows us how black people have been painted by American media as criminals, “super-predators,” or delinquents. This onslaught of media labeling has led to more black incarcerations, repeated black offenders, or institutionalization by black inmates (think Brooks in The Shawshank Redemption). The way we – as a nation, and a society – view black people and word-paint them, does matter. These words affect not only white children, but black children, who believe that they will never amount to more than criminality or will suffer undue harm by those entrusted to enforce the law.