“13th” analyzes the marginalization of African Americans and the mass incarceration of citizens in the United States. This documentary explains the history behind institutionalized racism and its lasting impact on American culture. Scholars, politicians and activists point out the facts about the oppression that black Americans have undergone for generations. They begin by recalling one of the first times that there had been a boom in incarceration, after the thirteenth amendment was established. At this time, black citizens were being put in jail for petty crimes which in turn, stereotyped them as violent people. Since then, unfairness in the justice system, media portrayal and governmental policies have all contributed to the belief that black people, especially men in particular, are criminals. The prison system in the United States is poorly constructed and gives no hope for convicts to return back to civil society in a normal way. One of the most important messages in the documentary is that although we are passed the days of slavery as a nation, we as a society are not past racial inequality. Racism has not left America and equal justice for all still awaits.
I learned an incredible amount of new information from this documentary that further helped my understanding of institutionalized racism and crime in America. Although I have understood that African Americans have been stereotyped as criminals due to misrepresentation in the media, I did not know how it began before there was mass media. It was the widespread fear that white people created against African Americans, claiming them as predators and criminals. I also did not know about the acts of political leaders such as Nixon and Reagan’s “war on drugs” and the fact that Bill Clinton was responsible for the increase in prisons. This documentary made me more aware of how unjust the prison system is and that many of the people who are in there won’t return back to society normal because they have been stripped of all their liberties in these cells, especially the numerous amount of people who are in there wrongly convicted. There is more to racism than to just understand that it’s “bad.” One must know its history and impact to understand that it is a large party of the United States’ cultural identity and that historic injustice has affected generations to this day.