Neither Slavery nor Indentured Servitude

By Lindsay Der

The captivating and moving documentary, 13th, follows the history of the systematic oppression and racism faced by African-Americans in American history. Available to watch on Netflix and for free on YouTube, the film explains how despite gaining their “freedom” in 1865 with the 13th Amendment, African-Americans have never truly been free. It shows how a loophole in the 13th Amendment, which stated that slavery or involuntary servitude was illegal, except for as punishment for a crime, has again and again been exploited by the prison system and the US government. Each time a form of oppression becomes unacceptable by society’s standards, a new, more subtle one takes its place. The documentary powerfully captures the never-ending loop of discrimination and injustice and it seems hopeless for many Americans to ever have a sense of true freedom. Horrifically, the trend continues today, and no one knows how or when the shift will occur, only that it will. 

Released in 2016, 13th still easily applies to today, and it provides deeper understanding for the protests and Black Lives Matter movement. Showing the history and the roots of certain stereotypes and inequality seen today, the documentary created a stronger idea of how much injustice needs to be fixed in our country. A shocking and provoking part of the film was when the film showed clips of people during the segregation era and created very strong parallels to footage from today. Though the film did not say a word about the similarities between the clips, their shocking resemblance was apparent; it is horrifying to see that things have not changed nearly as much as we think they have. Anyone interested in educating themselves on the political and racial issues that have taken the spotlight in our media these past months must take the time to watch 13th.