The "Selma" Director Speaks Out
Despite her Oscar-nominated and critically acclaimed films that tackle issues of racial injustice, Hollywood director Ava DuVernay reminds us that America still has a long way to go. In a recent interview with The Guardian, the Compton-born DuVernay discusses her new film, “13th”, and how the country needs to keep an open dialogue in regards to its painful past.
DuVernay has established herself as one of the most important documentarians in Hollywood and this year is up for her first nomination as director. If you haven’t seen “13th” yet on Netflix, trust me, it’s 100% worth it. The film depicts the tumultuous history of African-Americans since the 13th amendment and the ongoing institutional problems that followed each generation up until today.
DuVernay’s acclaimed documentary “13th” is a damning documentary of our criminal justice system. From the point in history where the 13th constitutional amendment (the one that abolished slavery) was passed, DuVernay examines the doctrine’s wording that perpetuated the oppression of African-Americans up until the present day.
The Truth About Mass Incarceration
In the 1980s the U.S. prison system saw an astronomical spike in incarcerations. This was around the time when the “war on drugs” was becoming a thing. What Reagan never talked about however, is that these new laws were blatantly targeted towards locking poor and uneducated black people up for longer sentences.
Prisons were also privatized during this era, transforming them from detention centers to money-making enterprises that produced goods (from incarcerated laborers).
To put bluntly, the federal prison system in place today proves the fact that slavery never ended with the 13th amendment, it’s still going on today: We just don’t like to talk about it.
DuVernay says in her interview that Americans have a horrible aversion to looking at places like Germany and South Africa, where religious and racial profiling ended with dire outcomes:
“It might help all of us to once in a while get outside of the United States itself, like go to South Africa or Germany. Because inherent in the very cultural fabric there, you have a sense of the past and of reckoning with it, saying, ‘This happened, and we will bear witness and we will learn from it, we will speak it and say that it happened and we will remember it.’”