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Reaction Paper to the Documentary 13th

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The film The 13th, written by Ava Duvernay , based on the Thirteenth Amendment and explores the intersecution of race, justice and mass incarnation in the United States

The Thirteenth Amendment formally abolished slavery however, the talks about the amendments exception clause. This states that slavery is illegal except as a punishment for a crime. Duvernays documentary gives us a compelling view on how the modern-day prison/laborsystem relates to slavery and is framed by the Black Live Matior movement

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The documentary 13th by Ava DuVernay was a visual masterpiece

The documentary provided its viewers with an array of information that spanned throughout centuries and was eloquently executed in less than 2 hours. The central focus of the film was about how the 13th amendment shaped this country and its prison system. The 13th amendment was the building block for mass incarceration and as time has gone on, new laws and amendments strengthened the process for more people to get incarcerated. Slavery benefited the country as a whole and as the Civil War was winding down, slavery was coming to an end. As the documentary states, the South especially relied heavily on slavery for their economy to sustain. After the passing of the 13th amendment, slaves were freed and it left the South’s economy in shambles. A stipulation within the 13th amendment, that states “Neither slavery not involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been dully convicted, shall exist within the United States.” In turn, mass amounts of newly freed slaves were arrested and deemed criminals. Being criminalized reduced them back to a lower status in the United States, and unfortunately reignited slavery in a new kind of form. The film was not only educational, it also provided its viewers with knowledge about why there is such a disparity in mass incarnations amongst people of color compared to their white counterparts.

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Interestingly, America’s illegal drug trade is a $151 billion-dollar industry (Knafo, 2013). Given the poverty and structural inequality in black communities, black people from urban settings such as the south side of Chicago, East Orange, New Jersey, or Compton, California are not the primary beneficiaries of this prominent industry. Through this, we witness the way state and federal governments use drugs to imprison black people. In turn, black people’s imprisonment has become a private venture. Though the 13th amendment seemingly established all former slaves to legal human status, there was a caveat in the clause: “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 place subject to their jurisdiction” (DuVernay, 2016). However, after the 13th amendment, most prisoners were black people. In addition, these former slaves were imprisoned and fined for petty theft, vagabondage and lack of keeping a steady job (DuVernay). Under the convict lease program, prisoners were forced to work in deplorable conditions and many convicts died from disease and abuse. In time, the convict lease program gave birth to chain gangs, in which black prisoners were chained together whilst undergoing laborious and menial work, effectively reinforcing and perpetrating the enslavement of black males (“Slavery by Another Name,” PBS). During the 1950’s, American society gradually illegalized chain gangs (“Slavery by Another Name,” PBS).

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Thus, the film is a masterpiece and activism in its own capacity. The atrocities meted upon black people are far from over and there is need for the criminal justice system of America to be restructured

Politicians needs to stop perpetrating hate crimes through creating plastic crises in order to gain political mileage. This has seen people of color treated with suspicion and ended up being incarcerated, as other people make a lot of money from the various retribution programs.

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13th. Dir. Ava DuVernay. 13th. Netflix, 7 Oct. 2016. Web. 12 Mar. 2017.

“Chain Gangs.” PBS. Public Broadcasting Service, n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.

Knafo, Saki. “When It Comes To Illegal Drug Use, White America Does The Crime, Black America Gets The Time.” The Huffington Post., 17 Sept. 2013. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.

Staff, ABS. “13 Shameful Pictures of Europeans Placing African People in Human Zoos.” Atlanta Black Star. N.p., 29 Dec. 2016. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.

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