Samples Movies Democracy Behind The Bars

Democracy Behind The Bars

784 words 3 page(s)

The documentary “13th” by Ava DuVernay reveals how the United States has become the country having 25% of all world prisoners. The film features famous American activists, historians, scholars, such as Malkia Cyril, Angela Davis, and Van Jones, reflecting on the role of mass imprisonment in the formation of American society. “13th” analyses different historical periods from the Civil War to the modern times and focuses on the reasons for the increase of mass incarceration during each of them. The problem of incarceration is viewed not as merely an index demonstrating the crime rates but as a means of social and political manipulation, mass abuse, and racial discrimination.

Though nowadays American government is proud of its victory against slavery, many social activists still express an opinion that the latter has not disappeared, it has just changed its form. For instance, Angela Davis, a famous American activist, says that “the prison industrial complex relies historically on the inheritances of slavery” (DuVernay). One of the first periods of the “nation`s prison boom” took place just after the Civil War. Black people, especially black men, were considered to be the embodiment of evil and crime and it was not only repeated by politicians but imposed by mass media and culture. For instance, the film “The Birth of Nation” directed in 1915 is a bright example of the how the government wanted black people to be seen by society. It created the image of a black man as a rapist, criminal, and murderer and made everyone believe in it. Moreover, this film gave rise to the popularity of Ku Klux Klan that resulted in a wave of violence and numerous murders of black people all over the country.

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Being treated as second-class people, many black Americans decided to stand up for their rights organizing movements and meetings. But instead of trying to hear the demands of the demonstrators, American government presented them as the biggest threat to the democracy and people`s safety. Black people could be arrested almost for any misdeed and be put behind the bars for years while many white criminals were set free. Black Americans were viewed as power that could not be controlled, and politicians found the easiest way to prevent them from the further fight for their rights – to deprive them of freedom.

Another period which ended up in an abrupt increase of prisoners` number was the so-called “war on drugs”, declared by President Reagan. From the very beginning, this war was organized as a means of hiding real problems, namely economic crisis, and shifting the public attention to another relatively important one. And again, black people became the main target of this fight, especially in the times when crack appeared. According to Shaka Senghor, white people caught up with crack on them were given much shorter sentences than black men and it proves that racial discrimination in the US did not disappear with the implementation of the 13th Amendment (DuVernay). As Malkia Cyril, the executive director of the Center for Media Justice, says, America has “educated a public, deliberately, over years, over decades, to believe that black men in particular and black people in general, are criminals” (DuVernay). What is more important, these views about the evil nature of black Americans were shared not only by white people but by the black ones too. So, politicians made people afraid of their selves, made them believe that they and their children deserved to be kept in prisons as wild animals just for their skin color.

The documentary “13th” does not simply demonstrate the shocking statistics, it reveals the true face of the democracy which has been so proud for its victory against the slavery, but, in fact, has just changed its form. It goes without saying that most people were imprisoned for different crimes, but the key point is that this policy does not prove to be effective. Though the number of people behind the bars is constantly rising, the crime rates have not declined much. America tries to solve the problem by imposing fear of punishment and aggression, but instead it should implement some steps to prevent all those crimes. This documentary made me see democracy not as a blessing but as a machine that utilizes one people to help the others and there is only one way to change it – to realize the value of every individual, regardless of his race.

Generally, one of the most important aims of this documentary is to make people reconsider their views concerning not only people sent to jails but also how society perceives different people, what biases it has against various social groups, and if the way they are depicted agrees with the reality.

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