13th (2016)

Growing up in the American public school system, you will most likely never learn or inaccurately read about the horrors of American history — our textbooks are closer to historical fiction than anything resembling the truth. Documentaries like 13th should be a requirement in middle and high school, no exceptions, even if our textbooks improve, there is nothing that compares to seeing this information presented with its interviews and found footage. Our history cannot be told without including the whole story. It is clear that the constitution was never intended to protect every American, and it likely never will until our entire government is completely uprooted from its highly flawed foundation.

If you can gain anything from this documentary, it’s that our past is so incredibly close to the present. If photos are painted over with a black and white monochrome filter in order to make these moments seem farther in the past than they were, one must look at how similar these situations are with things that happen today. This isn’t just our past, its our present and our future unless something dramatic changes in our culture and laws. I want to also add that this documentary, while incredibly well made and important, is not the end all be all in understanding racism in our society, historically and in the present. This may seem obvious to some, but I always fear that pieces like this will make white people feel as if they completely understand the complexities of this situation in its entirety by doing minimal research and watching one documentary, no matter how in depth or powerful it is. No person is every done learning, there is never a point when you can say that you “understand racism” or that you are above the oppressors. Learning is something that never ends, beyond voting and protesting and listening, learning will never end. Even if you think you are knowledgeable of things like the prison industrial complex and modern slavery, there is always more to learn and your voice should never be louder than a person directly impacted by the deeply rooted racism in our society. Listen before you speak. Be aware of your place in this issue, do what you can, watch more documentaries like this, give a platform to those who need be heard, and VOTE.


Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store