If you have time to scroll through Instagram, spend hours at your weekly virtual party, or fill your shopping bag on an online shopping spree, you have time to watch 13th.

Actually, even if you don’t have time to do the above things, you should make time to watch the award-winning, free-to-watch Netflix documentary. It may just become the most eye-opening hour and 40 minutes of your life.The raw and gripping documentary leaves viewers seeing the American justice system through a whole new set of lenses. And it definitely isn’t a pretty picture.

Initially released in 2016 by filmmaker Ava DuVernay (Selma), 13th explores and exposes the history – both overt and not so obvious – of racial inequality in the United States, highlighting how and why the country’s jails are disproportionately filled with African Americans. While the 13th Amendment of the American Constitution freed slaves (hence, the title of the doc), here’s the film’s bottom line: slavery never went away, it just manifested, fuelled and disguised by terms like “law and order” and “the war on drugs.”

The 13th Amendment 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.” So, the response was the mass incarceration of African Americans. The film connects the dots between slavery and this stark and racially fuelled reality.

The documentary features interviews with an array of subjects, who include activists, politicians, academics, and historians. It recounts the history of the criminalization and rampant imprisonment of Black Americans and a glaringly broken system – one that flourished with the help of people like Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. It was facilitated by each bill introduced to the criminal justice system that disproportionately negatively affected African Americans.

These biased bills and policies ultimately did and continue to force Blacks into prison. 

The cycle and Black stereotypes continue and are endorsed by actions and non-actions of the current administration.With Trump (somehow still) in charge, and with the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent global Black Lives Matter movement occurring before our eyes, the shocking documentary is as poignant and relevant right now as it ever has been.

While many Black people are all too familiar with the blatant and systemic racism that exists loud and clear in the criminal justice system, the film makes this crushing reality digestible to the blissfully unaware set. In fact, one hopes that the message of this documentary will keep them up at night.

For those who don’t quite understand the crowds and protests that have engulfed North America’s cities in the midst of a global pandemic, watching this film is a great place to start. Indeed, it’s not just about the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, or Ahmaud Arbery. Rather, the murders of these Black citizens serve as catalysts to expose countless years of unacceptable injustice.

But I don’t want to give away the whole documentary; you really need to see it for yourself.  It is available on Netflix and on YouTube – so, it really couldn’t be simpler to watch.

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