13th is a documentary from Ava Duvernary (known for directing 'Selma,' the movie about the march by MLK), and it tracks the history from the introduction of the 13th amendment, which states that no one can be owned by another person, to present day with the lens of the rights of black people. It is tied directly into the Black Lives Matter movement and explains how ingrained institutionalized racism has become. It also explains how this all came to be in a riveting, non-scholarly manner. However, the facts presented will shock you, they will horrify you, and if you're like me, they will rip a hole in your heart.
1. The United States has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's prison population.
That makes it the highest incarceration rate in the world. 40% of those inmates are black people, and no, that doesn't mean that white people make up the other 60%. Here's another interesting statistic tied into this: If African Americans and Hispanics were arrested at the same rate as whites, the prison population would decrease by nearly 40%.
2. The "exception clause" in the 13th Amendment was there to rebuild the South's economy - through prison slave labor.
After the Civil War, African Americans were arrested in massive groups, often for minor crimes, in order to fill the hole in the South's economy after slavery was abolished. This is the verified reason this clause was included.
3. Birth of a Nation was responsible for the return of the Ku Klux Klan.
The film was incredibly racist and began to introduce the idea that black men were criminals and that the Ku Klux Klan was reborn after their depiction in this film. This film also introduced the KKK ritual of burning crosses, in case you ever wondered where that came from.
4. 1 in 17 white males will go to jail/prison in their lifetime, while for black males the odds are 1 in 3.
Racists will argue that it's because blacks are more violent and therefore more likely to commit crimes. First of all, that's ridiculous. Moreover, it's because black people are more likely to experience discrimination in all aspects of their life, which leads to lower incomes, making them more likely to live in underprivileged neighborhoods where people have to commit crimes to make ends meet. See how its all connected? That's institutionalized racism.
5. Mandatory minimums take discretion away from judges, in turn putting more people of color behind bars.
Mandatory minimums were introduced by Nixon, and they put minimums on time being served for certain crimes. As the exemption clause continued to round up people of color, the mandatory minimums took away the ability for the judge to make decisions on the circumstances of a crime. This means that people of color are sent to prison for years at a time for nonviolent and minor offenses.
6. Laws don't always have morally sound origins.
13th delves into the involvement of ALEC in the formation of laws, and ALEC is corporately backed by massive companies like Walmart (the largest retailer of guns in the United States). I mention Walmart and guns because ALEC is the organization which pushed for the Stand Your Ground Law, which is what was used to justify Trayvon Martin's murder in court. George Zimmerman walked after murdering an unarmed black boy because of a law that was pushed by Walmart to increase the sale of guns.