Spreading Awareness On African American Incarceration In 13Th Documentary

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The documentary, 13th, very accurately shows viewers the causes of mass incarceration in the US, of which the thesis is: ‘Despite slavery being abolished in 1865, people of color continue to be enslaved in new forms that are suitable to the limitations of the time’. The 13th contains many conventions but the two conventions used in majority are archival footage and interviews. Archival footage such as black people are showed doing labour in prison clothes, the film “Birth of a Nation” scenes, black people lynched, John Ehrlichman (Nixon’s Advisor) accepting that the war on drugs was just a way to destroy communities of color, Lee Atwater’s (Ragean’s advisor) audio recording explaining the Southern Strategy, which entailed hurting black people. All these archival footages demonstrate that people of color are repeatedly controlled by different mechanisms of the law in the US. Interviews are the second convention that has been widely used in this documentary. Jelani Cobbs, Professor of African-American Studies, University of Connecticut explains that “slavery was an economic system” and after the civil war, labourers were required to rebuild the economy which were obtained from incarcerating a lot of black people. Angela Davis, Professor Emerita, VC Santa Cruz provides her own anecdote of winning a trial which was rare, Marc Mauer, Executive Director, Sentencing Project explains the harsh the treatment of crack cocaine vs. powder cocaine as crack cocaine was more prevalent in communities of color especially black people which was a direct attack on these communities as explained by Pat Nolan, formerly incarcerated activist, SVP, prison fellowship who further delves deeper into the effects of these laws such as millions of families were broken because huge number of people from these communities were disappearing into prisons for really long times.

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The documentary also intertwines multiple methods of development such as details and example as well as cause and effect. Details are followed by specific examples, their causes and the effect. For example, black men make up 6.5% of the US population but make up 40.2% of the prison population and that 1 in 3 young black males are expected to go to prison during their life as compared to white people in which that ratio is 1 in 17. To provide the cause of this detail the documentary further explains that after the 13th amendment the loophole of criminality was exploited and African Americans were arrested in huge numbers to provide labour to rebuild the economy of the south which led to people believing that black people are criminals as demonstrated by the film “Birth of a Nation”. This notion of criminality is what is used to incarcerate huge amounts of people of color. The effects of this overrepresentation of black people in the prison is that the black community suffers tremendously financially, socially and emotionally. But another intersting effect that 13th brings into the light is that after being imprisoned people enter a “prison industrial complex” which essentially renders them back to slavery as they are confined against their will, for no fault of theirs for durations that are not sensible and have to provide free labour.

The documentary also makes use of ample persuasive devices and they are montages, statistics and the use of expert testimonials. There are many images in the film that are meant to showcase the horrors faced by the black community and are meant to invoke emotions of anger, sadness and anguish. One such collection of images that greatly impacted me is the series of images showing various black people being lynched, this montage is meant to clearly showcase the brutal treatment that black people have gone through in America and invokes emotions of anger, and anguish from the viewer, supporting the thesis of black people still being abused despite the thirteenth amendment. The use of the statistic that 1 in 3 young black males will go to prison versus 1in 17 for whites and the fact that black men make up 6.5% of the U.S. population but they make up of 40.2% of the prison population is very effective in persuading the viewer in favour of the documentary’s thesis. Expert testimonials are another device that the documentary makes use of to convince the viewer. Several experts ranging from activists, professors and founders of organizations that deal with these issues explain the cause and effects of mass incarceration in detail providing the viewer with insight that is largely unknown giving the viewer completely different perspective into the issue. The reason that these experts are so persuading is also because of their qualifications; as they are in relevant fields such as African-American Studies, History, Political Science, Sociology and many others.

One criticism that I have about 13th is that it is quite extensive and concentrated with a lot of different bits and pieces which would be easier to understand if they are broken into parts rather than an hour and a half long continous film as the attention span of most people is close to forty-five minutes so, the documentary could have been divided in two parts to better suit the views limitations.

13th showcases the issue of mass incarceration of African American people exemplarily, I would like to learn more about the reasons of mass-incarceration of Indegenous peoples in Canada as well as the similarities and differences between them as I am unable to understand that why in a nation where people from such diverse backgrounds can be accepted, the very people whose land we live are not accepted? A similar documentary breaking down the reasons and events that have led to this discrimination will be really helpful for me. 

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Spreading Awareness On African American Incarceration In 13Th Documentary. (2023, March 30). WritingBros. Retrieved June 17, 2024, from https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/13th-documentary-spreading-awareness-on-the-issue-of-mass-incarceration-of-african-americans/
“Spreading Awareness On African American Incarceration In 13Th Documentary.” WritingBros, 30 Mar. 2023, writingbros.com/essay-examples/13th-documentary-spreading-awareness-on-the-issue-of-mass-incarceration-of-african-americans/
Spreading Awareness On African American Incarceration In 13Th Documentary. [online]. Available at: <https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/13th-documentary-spreading-awareness-on-the-issue-of-mass-incarceration-of-african-americans/> [Accessed 17 Jun. 2024].
Spreading Awareness On African American Incarceration In 13Th Documentary [Internet]. WritingBros. 2023 Mar 30 [cited 2024 Jun 17]. Available from: https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/13th-documentary-spreading-awareness-on-the-issue-of-mass-incarceration-of-african-americans/
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