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13th was originally published by Netflix in 2016. It was posted in full to YouTube in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd.
After watching the ENTIRE film, please respond to the following questions:
Answer the following questions in your initial post:
1. How does 13th characterize our criminal justice system and political institutions? How did this film affect your understanding of race and the criminal justice system in America? Was there a particular case, or series of facts that altered or challenged you pre-existing views? Explain.
2. “History is not just stuff that happens by accident. We are the products of history that our ancestors choose, if we’re white. If we are black, we are the products of the history that our ancestors most likely did not choose. Yet here we are all together, the products of that set of choices. And we have to understand that in order to escape from it.” — Kevin Gannon, 13th. What are your thoughts on this quote? Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?
3. How much did you know about the war on drugs or the war on crime before watching this film? Were you surprised to learn about the (allegedly) racial underpinnings of these legislative policies, and the (allegedly) active role played by the state in criminalizing and targeting communities of color? What was your reaction to hearing John Ehrlichman, a Nixon Administration Advisor say:
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
4. PRISONERS FOR PROFIT. Were you aware of the Prison Industrial Complex and how corporations are profiting from incarceration? Were you surprised to know about ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council—a committee of politicians and corporations influencing laws that benefit its corporate founders and pushing forth policies to increase the number of people in prison and increase sentences)?
5. What are some of the objections made about 13th in the article included above from the National Review? Did this article change your overall takeaway or conclusions you made after viewing the film?
Optional: Do you think this film should continue to be shown to students? I polled my students in the Spring 2022 semester and 80% suggested I continue to show this.