In my ongoing education about systemic racism, I recently watched 13th a documentary directed by award winning director, Ava DuVernay. In this film DuVernay explores the 13th Amendment to the US constitution and its impact on the Black community in the USA.
Following the end of legalised slavery in the USA and amendment was made to the constitution that allowed for the use of unpaid labour as a punishment for crime. The consequence is that the USA has quietly continued modern day slavery in a legal capacity in full view of the world.
This documentary shows how media, popular culture and politics have been manipulated to create an image of Black people as inherently criminal in order to continue feeding the USA’s desire for cheap labour off the back of Black and brown bodies.
Once you get under the skin of it the lengths white people have gone to to protect their own interests are truly mind boggling. US prisons operate as multi-billion dollar industry that requires a constant influx of new inmates. This means that not only is the justice system set up with the goal of mass incarceration (it’s easier, cheaper and less stressful to admit to a crime you didn’t commit than to even attempt a trial), it makes money off every element of this mass incarceration.
Laws (such as those against crack versus cocaine) are set up to disproportionately target Black people and penalties are stacked in a way that means once you have entered the system it is almost impossible to escape or rebuild your life in any way. This endless attack on the Black community has also stripped away leadership, ability to organise and progress and absolutely limited the possibility of a fair society in the USA as it stands now.
These examples are only a handful in the reality of how the country is set up in order to perpetuate white privilege and while the UK has gone about entrenching systemic racism in a different way there are strong parallels. This is a must watch for anyone who wants to understand why Black Lives Matter is at the forefront of hearts and minds across the world and for anyone who isn’t completely convinced that systemic racism is real.
It’s available on Netflix.