When I fired up my laptop, logged into Netflix and began to watch this film 13th, I had no clue what I was about to watch. All I knew going in was that it was a film about race relation directed by Ava DuVernay, who directed Selma. It was highly recommended by a few people whose opinion I hold in high regard, Ricky and Elliot from the YouTube channel ETC Show. What I felt after the 1-hour and 40-minute runtime is what I am trying to put into words here.
The most important thing I realized once the end credits finished rolling was how much suffering and pain a certain section of human beings go through and have been going through on a daily basis since the dawn of modern civilization. The segregation, the oppression, the brutality, the proverbial odds being stacked up against one sect of people, all this and more are depicted with the most deft and brutal of touches. One might easily come to the conclusion that this film is leftist propaganda film, but let me assure you, it’s not. It does not shy away from showing the reality of the world we live in and how we arrived at this point in our history.
It is a systematic story of how passing a certain 13th amendment or passing a certain Civil Rights Law changes nothing with how people perceive the world around them. I was blown away at how racism and “slavery” still exists in the modern world and how the “out of sight out of mind” principle is used to cover it up. It is a gut-wrenching portrait of how we as a society keep failing ourselves by incarcerating people we are programmed to think, look like the bad guys. We are all taught a certain lesson which has trickled down from a bygone era and most of us choose to stick to that belief instead of questioning it. I, personally, knew that having a criminal record makes it near impossible to procure employment but I did not know it takes away voting rights in the USA. I asked myself, what difference do I see between the oppressed men and women from the age of slavery to our modern day.
The film does not shy away from informing the audience that the minorities themselves have been indoctrinated with and believe the, excuse my language, bullshit philosophy which the world has large has been fed. It shows how young men are arrested with paroles amounts they can’t bear and are offered plea deals which take away their rights as citizens. It is hard for me to write an essay with any semblance of coherence because of how deeply this film affected me. I have been a man of color in a foreign land and I understand most of the points being put forth by the film. This is not to say the country I was in ever treated me a certain way, on the other hand, I have never felt more respected and safe.
The film shows how Democrats and Republicans (which includes the last two nominees from the US election) used the rhetoric of law and order and the war on drugs to enshrine an archaic thought process which has become near impossible to rid ourselves from. I urge every single reader to watch this film. It does not matter if you are a person from the left wing or the right, you need to watch and learn from it.
You need to learn what systematic destabilization of an entire race feels like. You need to understand why only 1 out 17 white men go to prison for crimes they commit whereas 1 out of 3 black men end up in prison for the exact same crimes. you need to understand why the black community had no leadership for the longest time. You need to understand why almost half the inmates in prisons the world over are present in the correction facilities of the USA. You need to understand why certain laws are passed with certain clauses to help certain people in their pursuit of certain things. You need to understand why we are not all that far away from what we used to be when we sit back in our arm-chairs and say I wouldn’t have let slavery happen. Most of all you need to understand why passing a million different laws is not the be all and end all answer to discrimination which has been prevalent in the world for the longest amount of time.
I came out of the film with a newfound respect for all the men and women, be it white or colored, who take the time to protest injustice. I know of so many people who fight for what is right and always try to bring social injustice to the public eye. All of us need to join them and never stop asking questions of our lawmakers. When Newt Gingrich knows that what is happening in the world at large is wrong, I think it’s time for all of us to come to that realization as well.
To paraphrase what Dr. King once so eloquently said, I have a dream to see a world without prejudice. I hope all the efforts made my the best of us don’t go in vain.