November 1, 2016

Netflix Review: 13th

Netflix is the gift that keeps on giving and its latest gift comes in the form of the Ava DuVernay’s film, 13th.

Netflix is the gift that keeps on giving and its latest gift comes in the form of the Ava DuVernay’s film, 13th. DuVernay’s blend of story-telling and statistics is brilliant in highlighting how the loophole in the 13th amendment has impacted the black community from 1865 till present day.

“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 any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

13th is a documentary that says exactly what black people have been saying for years:

1. The prison industrial complex is modern day slavery.

2. Black people, especially black men, have been unequally targeted by the police since the end of the Civil War, leaving a hugely disproportionate number of black men in jail. This has had a ripple effect on the social, political, and economic experience of the black home/community.

3. Money, rather than innocence, produces favorable outcomes in our criminal justice system.

4. Americans and their institutions continue to act like the past never happened and we can move on with no reconciliation; after all, we’re one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.

5. We must stay vigilant because institutional racism is a cancer (f*%k cancer!). It has evolved from the days of slavery up to the prison industrial complex and the next permutation is coming.

The last 50 minutes of the documentary speak to the present-day, but the film makes it clear that anger and frustration felt by black people in the United States is no different than that felt during the days of slavery, Jim Crow and Mass Incarceration. The violence and police brutality of the past exists in the present but is now more accessible because of the explosion of technology and social media.

My “Mind Blown” Moment

The documentary’s undressing of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was chilling, troubling and has me at hyper levels of WOKE. ALEC is a nonprofit organization composed of corporations and politicians working together to get favorable legislation passed. Yup, you read that right. Rich people working together to get richer while not paying taxes.

The exhaustive list of companies who have been with ALEC at some point is a representation of the crimes of capitalism.

ALEC had a hand in the 1994 Federal Crime Bill which skyrocketed the U.S. prison population and directly profited many of ALEC’s corporate members.

The Stand Your Ground Law that allowed George Zimmerman to walk away a free man after he murdered an unarmed 17-year old Trayvon Martin. Yup, that was ALEC.

Today, ALEC is pushing to privatize probation and parole now that prisons are overcrowded. “Prisons are overcrowding” is code for “we think there is a lot of money to be made by strapping GPS monitors on folks and making them prisons in their own homes and communities.”

Stay woke.

My “I’m Black and I’m Proud” Moment

Let me tell yall about this woman Angela Davis. She had Richard Nixon (President), Ronald Regan (California Governor) and J. Edgar Hoover (Director of FBI) holding news conferences to announce her arrest and then she went into the court room and juju’d all over the prosecution! A jury composed of all white people (probably hand-picked by the aforementioned three stooges) acquitted her of murder, kidnapping and criminal conspiracy charges. Talk about the power of the Black Intellect!

Hearing Van Jones narrate the story of Angela Davis was perfect. Van is one of the few pundits I respect on TV because he doesn’t hold back on set. He might cry, or laugh like a child. Whatever he does, he keeps it real. One point Van made during the documentary is that we can’t ignore the fact that many black leaders during the Civil Rights era were killed, jailed or exiled before the era of Mass Incarceration hit the black community. This was no coincidence. The history of America cannot be told without mentioning names like Assata Shakur and Fred Hampton and other activists who were labeled as “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country” by J. Edgar Hoover in 1969. Fred Hampton was assassinated in his bed at the age of 21 a mere five months after Hoover uttered those words. Assata Shakur still has a 2-million-dollar bounty on her head while exiled in Cuba.

Angela Davis was attacked by the system, fought back and won. Poetic justice.

The Numbers

I watched the documentary and came away thinking, “those sure were a lot of interesting statistics Ava threw out there”, so I went ahead and transcribed all the statistics given in the documentary for all you lovely people.

  • U.S. has 5% of world population and 25% of world’s prisoners (US has the highest rate incarceration in the world)
  • The official, constitutional end of slavery meant that 4 million people who were an integral part of economics production system in American south were now free
  • An estimated 350 delegates at the Democratic National Convention in New York (1924) were members of the Ku Klux Klan
  • U.S. Prison Population 1970 – 357,292
  • U.S. Prison Population 1980 – 513,900
  • U.S. Prison Population 1985 – 759,100
  • U.S. Prison Population 1990 – 1,179,200
  • U.S. Prison Population 2000 – 2,015,300
  • U.S. Prison Population 2014 – 2,306,200
  • 97% of people in jail are there based on a plea bargain (as oppose to going to trail)
  • 95% of elected prosecutors in United States are white
  • African-American Prison Population 2001 – 878,400 (this could be a pie chart of %African American in prison relative to the entire population of African Americans)
  • There are over 40,000 collateral consequences for people who come through criminal justice system (can’t vote, inability to apply for loans, job application, etc.)
  • 2015 – Nearly 30% of black male population in Alabama is disenfranchised as result of criminal conviction
  • Lifetime likelihood of imprisonment – white men – 1 in 17
  • Lifetime likelihood of imprisonment – black men – 1 in 3
  • Black men account for 6.5% of U.S. Population but make up 40.2% of Prison Population

Final Word

Ava DuVernay is a genius. 13th is one of the best documentaries on race in America (shouts to O.J.: Made in America) and I strongly believe that it is a must-see. Grab a few friends, pop it on and then discuss.

In the end, the documentary boils down to one sentence: The opposite of criminalization is humanization.

Black Lives have been criminalized since the signing of the 13th Amendment. The evidence is right for us to see. Bill Clinton admitted that the 1994 Federal Crime Bill did more damage than good. We have a national holiday named after Martin Luther King Jr., the man accused of being the “most notorious liar in [the] country”.

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