The 13th Film Summary and Impressions

The documentary, “13th” by Ava Duvernay presented an incredible documentary in which she went in-depth displaying the prison house scheme in the United States and how it played a big part in racial inequality. Duvernay uses various sociological theoretical perspectives, particularly structural functionalism. What is structural functionalism? The communities of people are viewed as each aspect of society’s roles as independent, meaning that the community of people of each individual has their own goals which lead to the society coming together as a whole. If the parts of societies fight with each other and no longer work together to satisfy the goals of their own, then it could lead to the destruction of the society.

This theory examines social patterns, their effect on society, and how individuals fit into a social pattern to form a society. Like how the American society refuses to acknowledge the fact that the actions they’re causing onto the blacks, they are not only harming them by excluding them from the “white American humanity”, but they are also harming themselves from living in a toxic society because of their actions.

Duvernay goes back to the end of 1865 when the Civil War ended and the 13th Amendment was passed, which was good news for colored people, it added another obstacle in their way. The whites found this opportunity by using the Amendment which states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime.” Due to this statement, over time, police(s) would arrest blacks for minor crimes and cuff them because they would find their every move suspicious, causing a prison boom, with over 70,000 blacks in prison.

To add a bigger emphasis on why and how the arrest came to a conclusion, the time Nixon was president, he created a system that targeted black people without investigating the motivates that goes toward unjust criminal accusations. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan inserted the thoughts in Americans’ mind that drugs are killing the economy and blacks were felons. Possessions of marijuana or drugs added to the arrest of Americans that were already detained. Eventually, the law of “Three Strikes and You’re Out” law was passed when the tragedy of Paula Klass took place; a law indicating that when a person committed their third crime, they would be imprisoned forever.

For example, Kalief Browder was arrested at the age of 16 for allegedly stealing a backpack and charged with robbery and assault. He had the chance to either plea innocent and wait for his trial, but if he goes down that path, and he ends up getting accused as guilty, he’d be given a life sentence in prison. Because he didn’t want to take that chance, and his family could not afford to bail him out, he was then imprisoned for three years in solitary confinement. He was then released when the prosecutor lacked evidence of his “misconduct”. After he was released, he committed suicide in his home by hanging himself.

The documentary, 13th, includes the various use of anecdote to emphasize how the 13th Amendment was related to racial inequalities. She includes ethnocentrism and expresses with authoritative opinions of how it is still conspicuous today. The document is put at an academic perspective to display the reality of how this problem stretches more each day. 13th is well documented and is desired to educate, inspire and the legacies of the 13th Amendment so that her audience(s) can take this to heart and begin to start making changes in life and being advocates to this social issue.

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The 13th film summary and impressions. (2021, May 20). Retrieved August 9, 2022 , from

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