Review of the Film “13th”

The documentary, “13th” by Oscar Nominated Documentary, Ava Duvernay was an incredible documentary in which she went in-depth displaying the prison house scheme in the United States and how it played a big part in racial inequality. Duvernay uses various sociological theoretical perspectives, particularly structural functionalism. What is structural functionalism? They are societies that are viewed as each aspect of society’s roles are independent. The communities of people are viewed as organisms who are independent, meaning that the community of people of each individual has their own goals which leads to the society coming together as a whole. If the parts of societies fight with each other and no longer work together to satisfy the goals of their own, then it could lead to the destruction of the society. This theory examines social patterns, their effect on society, and how individuals fit into a social pattern to form society. Like how the American society refuses to acknowledge the fact that the actions they’re causing onto the blacks, they are not only harming them by excluding them from the “white American humanity”, but they are also harming themselves from living in a toxic society because of their actions.

Duvernay goes back to the end of 1865, when the Civil War ended and the 13th Amendment was passed, putting an end to slavery and making all African Americans free of enslavement. Before then, they were labeled as evil and treated unfairly and poorly. Although the Amendment was good news for colored people, it also added another obstacle in their way. The whites have found another way to harass the colors using the Amendment which states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime.” Due to this statement, throughout the years, police would arrest blacks for minor crimes and cuff these because of their suspicion. This caused a prison boom, with already over 70,000 blacks in prison. To add a bigger emphasis on why and how the arrest came to a conclusion, in the documentary, the time Nixon was president, he created a system that targeted black people without investigating the motivations that goes toward unjust criminal accusations. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan inserted the thoughts in Americans’ mind that drugs is killing the economy and blacks were felons. Possessions of marijuana and/or other drugs added to the arrest of Americans that were already detained.

Going further into the years, the law of “Three Strikes and you’re Out” law was passed when the tragedy of Paula Klass took place, the law indicating that when a person committed their third crime, they were imprisoned forever. Going on even further, the documentary shows how police now will not just stop the ones they think are conducting suspicious activities, but also fire within 15 seconds if the blacks try to plead their innocence. For example, Kalief Browder was arrested at the age of 16 for allegedly stealing a backpack and charged with robbery and assault. He had the chance to either plea innocent and wait for his trail, but the consequence was if he went down that path, if he ends up getting accused as guilty, he’d given a life sentence in prison. Because he didn’t want to take that chance and his family could not afford to bail him out, he was then imprisoned for three years in solitary confinement. He was then released when the prosecutor lacked evidence in his “misconduct”. After he was released, he committed suicide in his home by hanging himself.

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