By Warnell Jones
2016 has most certainly been a year for the books. In this opinion piece, HHF writer; Warnell introduces an extraordinary documentary “13th” which is referring to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution; showing archival footage & testimonies purging from the souls of historians, activists & politicians.
America has learned more about itself this year than probably any other year since the 1960s. The drive for researching family lineage has never been stronger. Understanding the history and process of politics is a hot topic among schools & work circles. But these are a few of the positive ways discovery has affected us this year. Some of us have learned other important lessons. We’ve learned that race is still an issue of conflict in 2016, even though laws against racism & prejudice were put into place almost 50 years ago. We learned that there are people in positions of power that do not follow their own law. We learned that business holds dominion over any and every citizen in the USA. And last but not least, we learned that (much like the 1960s) it’s STILL a CRIME to be BLACK in America.
Thanks to the accessibility of the world wide web, it is now more than ever clear that we do not live in a “colorless” society. We live in a society that criminalizes people based upon skin color. American society has been taught to do so for a very long time now.
“13th” is a riveting documentary film from Ava DuVernay that, through media excerpts and interviews with civil rights heroes and scholars, proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that racism & criminality go hand-in-hand. This documentary is a clear “wake up” to the viewers to seek tangible information regarding mass incarceration and the Prison Industrial Complex in America.
It crushes my psyche to be confronted with the truth that America hates people of color. I know that seems like a strong accusation, sure, but the amount of evidence that “13th” provides against the nation is astounding. In America circa 1970, the Prison population was around 513,000. Nixon’s “law and order” government touted war against crime, and instead of pursuing this fairly, law enforcement ignored the crimes of white affluent neighborhoods and focused harshly on the socioeconomically displaced ghettos, which was home to many black people. The Reagan era provided America with the bases of laws against people of color with the “war on drugs”. These laws along with the sentiments of the “war on crime” were capped off in the Clinton era, where the statutes of “3 strikes” and “mandatory minimums” allowed for the decriminalization and mass incarceration of anyone that was Black, Hispanic, or Native American, as well as anyone that was even in possession of recreational drugs.
These laws & statutes allowed the Prison Industrial Complex to grow it’s inmate membership almost five-fold. The number of inmates across America today is nearing a staggering 2.3 million people. This is the largest amount of inmates of any country – in the world. To add, 40% of those individuals are people of color. One would think that number isn’t bad, but the amount of people of color in the USA only total a mere 14%. That’s right, the Prison Industrial Complex purposely uses the smallest part of the American population to fill its prisons, which are now privately owned and for-profit, which means big corporations use the Prison Industrial Complex to produce goods and services that we use everyday. This is modern-day slavery. Corporations
use this system to crush competitors and economic projections, while the prisoners themselves make pennies on the dollar for their work.
“13th” exposes it all, from the plot of hate through fear, the civil rights struggles, and the modern-day legislation that proves that America is a dangerous place for anyone that holds melanin in their skin.