Recently I came across a very powerful and emotional documentary on Netflix called 13th by Ana DuVernay. The documentary challenges your preconceived notions and opinions on race and justice in the world and has a focus on the 13th Amendment hence the title. For those of you who are not history buffs or need a refresher on the U.S. constitution, the 13th Amendment says, “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.” In other words, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery and granted freedom to enslaved Americans. Although the slaves were free, legislation found a loophole within the 13th amendment, criminalizing the recently freed slaves, forcing them into manual labor.
The point of the documentary is to get the audience thinking by talking about an important subject that people should be educated more on, racial injustice. By educating the audience on the racial injustice that still occurs in the 21st century, DuVernay hopes to put an end to racial injustice and truly “grant freedom to all Americans” as the 13th Amendment supposedly says. The Documentary starts off by talking about powerful topics like slavery, civil rights movement, and the War on Drugs. Nixon started the War on Drugs by appealing to southern, poor, and working class whites and getting them on board with his campaign. He carefully phrased his words to use non-racist terms to talk about the War on Drugs. The administration admitted that the War on Drugs campaign was focused on incarcerating African Americans. The Nixon presidency was more concerned with wanting to criminalize blacks and hippies by lying about drugs and turning people against these two groups rather than actually putting a stop to the drugs. Nixon’s campaign goes to show that from the times of slavery to now African Americans have never stopped facing racism and discrimination.
Another powerful topic that DuVernay’s film touched upon is the power of media and how they can easily persuade a good majority of our nation to form an opinion on any situation before the facts are handed out and made clear. What is supposed to be a non-biased outlet that strictly reports on the facts of the situation has now turned into a biased media implanting false ideas into our brains. The phrase “innocent until proven guilty,” is what our justice system is built upon. So, if you’re white, you have the privilege in the system that grants “innocent until proven guilty.” As DuVernay’s film shows, if you’re black you are not given the same right. The media can’t help, but to become involved in our justice system and sometimes even influence our opinions. African Americans are mostly portrayed negatively in the eyes of the media. They seem to be overrepresented in the media as criminals, more times than is true. The media will A prime example showing just how guilty and biased our media is when DuVernay brought up the Central Park Joggers case. Five teens were accused of raping a jogger running through Central Park. Before the trial even began, these teens were seen guilty in the eyes of public thanks to the help of the so called “un-biased media.” One quote from the movie that really struck me was when Stevenson said, “We make them their crime […] and through that lens it become so much easier that they’re guilty and that they should go to prison.” After spending six to eleven years in prison, these young adults were finally freed and proven to be innocent by DNA testing.
While prior to watching the film I thought I knew just how much of a problem racial injustice and violence really is in our present times, I can honestly say after watching that documentary I have been educated more on how bad of a problem inequality is in America. Instead of fighting with one another, we need to unite as a nation and fight to stop discrimination. As the movie says, “[…] When black lives matter everybody’s live matters including every single person that enters this criminal justice system and this prison industrial complex. It’s not just even about only black lives […].”
Seeing the documentary has gotten me to realize it is up to me and my generation, the future of America, to put a stop the racial inequality in our world. Soldiers fought to make America a free country and we are reversing the effects using race to divide us apart more. So instead of just sitting here and talking about how action must be taken, I took it upon myself to help start the change and get involved in putting an end to racial injustice.
March 21st was International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It is a day to bring awareness that everyone, according to the UN, is “entitled to human rights without discrimination.” This international day is observed specifically on March 21st because on that day in 1960 police shot fire against a group of peaceful demonstrators who were protesting apartheid in South Africa.
There are many ways to get involved and help become part of the future that creates equality for all. Before becoming physically involved with any organization, it is important to understand what you are fighting and learn about the severity of the situation. A good way to get educated in this is by watching this documentary on Netflix.
Another way to become involved is by joining an organization that stands against racism. A local organization that is very involved and wants to put an end to this is YWCA. YWCA is a non-profit organization that’s mission is to “eliminate racism and empower women.” YWCA currently has three active campaigns running and two petitions. Their campaign to “Stand against Racism” runs from April 27th to the 30th. More information about the campaign and how to get involved can be found here. The purpose of the campaign is simple, to being awareness to racial discrimination. To participate simply stand with as many or as little people as you want and can take place anywhere. If you would like to join an already organized stand, check out this website to find a stand near you. Be sure to share your pictures with YWCA.org.
Another very involving organization that you may join and is paired up with YWCA is Greater Pittsburgh Arts Center. Their focus is on holding events that address the issues of racial inequality. You may find their upcoming events here. They are constantly updating their website, so if you don’t see any events at the time, be sure to check back later. So, there are many events not only in Pittsburgh that stand up to racism. If you are interested in other campaign you may check out this website. Not only do those websites provide information on events to help stand against racial in violence, but they also tell you what to do in the case you hear or encounter racism. You may also find other events that the UN supports here.