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13th, a movie

February 12, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

I don’t know what took me so long to watch this film. Perhaps, well I can only make excuses now and none of them seem legitimate. I think it’s a fear of what I will feel if I watch movies that stir me as to the injustice of the country I live in, or the world I live, which seems stupid and weak since the people who are the subject of these films don’t have a choice.

Anyway, last night I decided that one of the things I can do while Trump is President is to watch films and TV shows that are either about or made by minorities. I can educate myself so that I can be better informed.

There are probably many reviews out there on this film. I’ve been upset about the prison system for several years, mostly because I don’t think drug offenders should go to prison. I see it as a health issue rather than a crime issue. I don’t like the way prisons have been glorified in new TV shows such as “Orange is the New Black” and “Wentworth” because I think it normalizes the experience for those of us who have no direct experience. And, I’m guessing that it doesn’t factually represent certain elements, such as the ratio of white to black inmates, etc.

But back to 13th. One of the lines that is stuck in my brain is Gingrich’s statement that “if you are white you cannot understand what it means to be black”. I’ve heard this before from people in my life and I believe it to be true. It just seems strange to hear it from Newt. To me, he represents part of the massive problem – an old white man – part of the system. I find it hard to give any credibility to a guy who cheated. He’s the stereotype, right. As the child of a father who cheated repeatedly on different wives, I can say that it’s hard to respect someone who would do that. But, I think Newt is right on this point. There is no way for me to understand what it is like for a black person, a brown person, gay, or any other “type” of person. I can only see the world through my eyes. That doesn’t, however, give me a pass for not trying to understand, and so I must do my best and I must be humble in that. I can’t go around proclaiming that I “understand” or speak as though I am an expert. I must (and when I say “I” here, I mean white people) be a student and I must do my best to even out that advantages that I have been afforded because of my whiteness and the whiteness of my ancestors.

I am 13th generation American on my father’s side, so I cannot claim that I did not benefit, somehow, even if my family were not slave owners, my family still benefited economically, so I must take some responsibility. Anyway, enough about me and more about the movie.

So incarceration and money. Can’t get away from the fact that these two are tied together and that a collateral benefit is that it helps to destroy or to keep black and brown people oppressed and it keeps a large part of those populations from voting because they legally can’t once they have a criminal conviction (e.g.: 30% of the black population in Alabama). What we fail to acknowledge as a society is that oft quoted statement that when one of us is oppressed, none of us are free. Still, the system carries on and what I abhor is that at the root seems to be this profit-driven motive that we cannot escape in this country.

Things that might shock you if you haven’t seen this film or are just ignorant on these issues, like me:

  1. ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is behind much of legislation that drives the bills that make it easy to put people in prison. If you look at ALEC, you can see which companies are big supporters of it and I found out that my insurance company, State Farm, supports ALEC so I am going to change my insurance company. My cell phone provider also supports ALEC so I have to figure that out as well.
  2. The money-making doesn’t stop with the act of incarceration, everyone is in on it,      goods are produced by inmates  for poverty wages (JCPenney and Victoria’s Secret recently pulled out based on social pressure), food companies like Aramark that provide sub-standard food to the inmates…the list goes on.
  3. 97% of people in prison haven’t had a trial. They plead themselves into prison because they are fearful that longer sentences will be imposed if they go to trial. These fears are instilled in them by the system – namely the prosecution.

Then there’s Trump, a throwback, and the things that he said/says reminiscent of the civil rights era, when black people were openly tormented at a time when we should have known better. This movie does an excellent job of comparing modern day treatment to historic treatment – visually, which is so powerful.

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Categories: Documentary, Politics, Racism
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