Tuesday, February 28, 2017


"From slave to criminal with one amendment" is the subtitle to the Oscar- nominated Netflix documentary, 13th. There's no better way to describe how the United States treats and has historically treated minority populations and this film by director Ava DuVernay does a perfect job of elaborating the role the 13th amendment plays in preserving racial inequality in America, specifically in America's prison system.

From 1970 to today, the prison population in the United States has gone from 200,000 to 2 million, largely as a result of legislature claiming to "crack down" on crime. The criminalization of certain behaviors, the enforcement of Jim Crow laws, and most recently the "war on drugs" have all been used to disguise the perpetuation of slavery. Now, with mass incarceration and the corporate prison industry, businesses are making large amounts of money through "legal" slavery and the cycle of racial control continues. Featuring public figures, academics, and activists of all political leanings, DuVernay tells the story of slavery's economics, past and present.

This was not an easy movie to watch, but it's a necessary one - both for viewers who know the system isn't broken (it was built this way), and for viewers who may not even realize the extent to which our laws and criminal justice system unfairly target people of color. We can't fight injustice we aren't aware of, and we don't always see injustice that doesn't directly impact us, but it's on us to educate ourselves so that we know what challenges we're facing as a country.

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