The United States is home to 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s prisoners. There are 1 out of 4 humans in jail in the so called land of the free? We had a prison population of 300,000 in 1972 and today we have a prison population of 2.3 million.
13th is a 2016 American documentary by director Ava DuVernay. The film explores the “intersection of race, justice and mass incarceration in the United States;” it is titled after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which freed the slaves and prohibited slavery (unless as punishment for a crime).
This documentary is based on the Prison Industrial Complex and the 13th amendment which said no one can be slaves which we all know is a lie because it is in bold print right there in the Constitution it says we can still be slaves through the prison system. It states “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
After the civil war when all of the slaves were free and the southern economy took a toll the slave owners used the loop hole in the 13th amendment to incarceration former slaves so they do basically slave labor again. It was the first prison boom in this country. At that time a film called Birth of A Nation came out and was big hit by all the white southerners to watch and try to glorify their defeat and make it into a win while demoralizing black folks and turning us into animals and something to fear. Sadly this is the reason Emmett Till got killed and many other brothers because of movies like this and just the way white people thought back then about us and made it seem like black men were going to harm your lily white women. What’s even more sad is the fact that the women who said poor little Emmett Till was hitting on her lied about it and just this year came clean. Unfortunately that was the case in so many different situations that we will probably never hear about.
In Birth of A Nation a white women jumps off a cliff to kill herself when a black man comes up behind her because she things he is going to rape her. Not because he looks suspicious but because he is black. Then when he is taken to trial by the KKK they don’t even try him they just sentence him guilty and to death. This is how our justice system today still operates. This movie also helped to put the KKK back on the map after the Civil War and even more clan members were sworn in. There where thousands of lynchings of black people between Reconstruction and WWII by the mob under the idea they had done something criminal. Soon after many black folks would migrate to the northern states as refuges running from the terror of the clan in what is called The Great Migration.
Once it became taboo to bring upon such acts of terror new forms of an old game came about through segregation and Jim Crow two things my dad lived through in New Orleans. We were seen as second class which was like two degrees higher then Indigenous folks who at the time were coming to cities where black folks lived if they had darker skin because identifying as a Native American person would get you killed.
Of course then you had civil rights leaders like Martin, Malcolm X and John Trudell among others fighting hard for our freedoms and to end segregation and racism while gaining basic human rights. Something I will voice right now is the fact that all though segregation was a terrible thing at least there were thriving black communities where we had our own banks, stores, schools, ect. that we were in charge of. Today we are just as segregated as ever even though it is illegal to be but the difference is that thanks to integration we don’t have anything that is ours. We don’t have our own infrastructure like we used to which is why we can’t make a penny to our name and why we are always getting into criminal activity and ending up right were they want us in a jail cell. Can you blame them though? People have to eat it’s not like they are selling dope and stealing cars and purses just to do it. The struggle is real and people need to think of that more before criminalizing a people.
Something else I never fully understood was the fact that white women still had less rights then men but I guess because they were considered better then blacks, Indigenous folks, Latinx and others they still went along with the program. Those are the ancestors of the 53% of white women today who voted for President Cheeto.
During the Civil Rights movement many of our leaders were jailed on the premise that what they were doing was criminal. This country loves to say “criminal” when it comes to black folks but really anybody not white. A kind of dope thing that came out of the Civil Rights movement though was the way our leaders turned getting arrested on it’s head. Meaning they took getting arrested as a noble thing that they were fighting the system to fight for our freedom.
Then the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act were put into the constitution in a way were white folks had to admit they had to give us our rights. At the same time though crime was at an all time high among the baby boomer generation and so many people tired to blame this on the Civil Rights movement making it out to be a criminal movement. This helped to coin the term mass incarceration.
By 1970 when Nixon became president, there where 357,292 people incarcerated. Nixon helped to coin the phrase “a war on crime” which was just code for a war on black people and political parties such as the Black Panther Party. He also fought against the anti-war movement, the women’s suffrage movement and the LGBTQA+ movement. Basically any movement wanting to bring about change and progress. He hyped up the police so much it looked like a war zone in many cites across the country. Then he coined the biggest term to get the most people into jail “a war on drugs” aka a war on the drugs you planted in black communities to get us hooked on it and get us to illegally sell your poison. People where sent to jail for even super miner offenses like possession of weed.
So now Nixon decides to get the southern whites who were democrats at the time to become republicans which is where the shift came today were we have the republican party. This is why I don’t even believe in this two part system as they are both out to get my people and even though I vote I know neither person running is going to help my folks as they are basically the same party in my option just one is more vocal then the other. Of course the Nixon administration new they were lying when talking in code about black people and hippies at the time because all presidents are liars in some form or fashion.
By 1980 the number of jailed black folks increased even more to 513,900. Then came Ronald Regan who just took this all to a new level. The modern war on drugs was coined by Regan in 1982. One good thing that came out of this was his wife Nancy who started the “Just Say No” campaign and started to educate folks through commercials and after school specials. Then crack cocaine was givin to the people because you wanna kill off or send to jail for pretty much ever a whole bunch of black people and others in the so called “ghetto”. They were giving folks life without parole without ever helping them to fight their addiction. At the same time though regular powdered cocaine was put into the suburbs and if you were caught with that you got a slap on wrist.
By 1985 the number of folks in jail was 759,100. During this time the media and news over represented black and Latinx folks as criminals. The media wanted people to look at us and be scared which is the same thing they do today making us look less then human. Around this time many influential hip-hop groups like Public Enemy and NWA would come out with many songs about the police, media and war on drugs. Then the word “super predator” came out by Hilary Clinton and basically was a word to describe black and brown folks in the inner-cities with fathers who were locked up and mothers who were on drugs and kids roaming the streets “looking” for trouble.
A case came up called the Central Park Joggers a group of five black teens who were accused of raping a white women unjustly and were no-guilty. Donald Trump wanted to give the kids the death sentence and thought the rape was so unjust to this poor white girl which is ironic now knowing he raped a young 12 year old and has not even gone to trail yet. These teens were under 18 and all went to adult jail for six to eleven years. Unfortunately cases like this will pop up often as it’s an easy way to lock up black folks.
The media has done such a good job over the years making white folks scared of us that we as black people have become scared of our own selves. Once the Bush vs. Dukakis presidential campaign came about Dukakis was letting prisoners out on weekends. He would have won that election but once he started to focus his campaign on a black incarcerated man Willie Horton all of this political support went to Bush giving him the presidency.
By 1990 there were 1,179,200 black folks in the system. Polly Klass was abducted from her bed room which started the California law three strikes and your out meaning you do three crimes and your in jail for good and then they took away parole. Bill Clinton started the militarization of the police system which we see in places like the inner-city and in places like Standing Rock. He also signed the 1994 Crime Bill.
By 2000, 2,015,200 black people were incarcerated and 878,400 by 2001. Fred Hampton an amazing civil rights and Black Panther Party member was able to bring together black, Indigenous and Latinxs together to fight against oppression. Sadly him and his wife were shot lying next to each other one night due to just having so much power to bring together so many marginalized groups.
The same thing happened to Native American activist John Trudell who’s first wife was at home pregnant with her kids and mother and the FBI set the house on fire when they were sleeping.
By 2014 over 2,400,000. Stand your ground law in Florida passed by ALEC. Walmart has the highest sells of guns and bullets in the country and is apart of ALEC. Walmart has since stepped down from ALEC after the Travon Martin shooting. SB1070 made it so cops could stop anyone who looked like an immigrant which was great for ALEC and CCA members in Arizona so they could lock up more undocumented immigrants most of them young kids in detention centers. House arrest became a big thing as jails became too crowed. So now the police can make money off of you in your own home. Poor free labor is a big reason to keep people locked up as its cheap for cooperation’s.
Then you have the fact that your get arrested for a petty crime and then they make bail so high that most folks can’t pay it so they get stuck in there. Many will commit suicide due to the way they will try to brake your spirit. Kalief Browder was one of these cases and sadly after he got out he commented suicide at 22 years old. There are cells that don’t even have windows so people can see the outside of their cells.People being locked up can lose their rights to housing, student lone, jobs, right to vote, parental rights, and so much more.
White men are 1 in 17 and black men are 1 in 3 to be arrested. Black men also make up 40.2% of the prison system. The reason these important movements got started was due to shock factor. Publishing pictures of Emmett Till’s corps during the open casket funeral in Jet magazine or the way videos are posted on Facebook of black men and women being killed or the way Standing Rock popped off. Now in 2016 people of all colors are locked up thanks to stupid laws that started with trying to get rid of black people.
What Did I Get Out of this Documentary:
I got that this country is racists and will always be racist in one form or another. I got that no matter how much people tell us to forget about slavery, Jim Crow, segregation and the Civil Rights Movement we can’t because it keeps coming back to haunt us like a bad acid trip as it repeats its self in different forms. I got that the war on drugs was the government bringing drugs into inner-city communities deliberately to hook people on them then get people to drug deal so they could lock them up and get them to do free labor for white folks to wear, eat, buy things other communities can’t afford in the first place. I got that police brutality is a real thing that is legal. I got that no matter how hard we as a race try especially black men to be upstanding citizens we will always be looked at as criminals. I got that all of this from the time of slavery to the police brutality and mass incarceration we face today stems from the racist, dirty, evil, men in governments and corporations who hate people of color and have ties to the KKK. I got that people lie. I got that the justice system is f-ed up. I got that black liberation is liberation for all. I got that kids in school need to watch this documentary and have discussions around it because I’m done with a BS history lesson on this stuff. This is the fabric of this country and if we don’t learn from the way we were and continue to be we can’t move forward with the world only knowing lies told in a book written by white men. Michael said it best “all I wanna say is they don’t really care about us!”
Most of the stuff in this documentary I knew already because I grew up with woke parents but I did brake it down for me in a way where I could make the connections from one thing to the next. Also I think this is a great tool for kids and white allies to watch and try to educate themselves on what my black, brown and indigenous communities go through everyday. But I’m also done with stereotypes in the media about this and especially in hip-hop today. Being locked up is not glamours and we need to get our youth of today to not go with the stereotypes because we are more powerful then the system!
Well Till Next Time…Fight the System!