WELCOME HOME: WHAT ’13TH’ TEACHES US ABOUT AMERICA & THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

“Doc, you gotta watch 13th!.”

I heard that a million times after the new Netflix documentary 13th (by acclaimed director Ava Duvernay) came out. It’s about how the system of mass incarceration evolved from slavery. It takes its name from the 13thAmendment, which abolishes slavery in the United States, except in the case of incarceration.

“I don’t need to see that stuff,” I said to myself, actually using a more earthy noun relegating the documentary to fecal waste matter. “I lived it.” I don’t watch Cops, or any other cop show. I don’t watch reality prison TV, I don’t watch Orange is the New Black, because my mentor, Glenn Martin, reminds us that “Black is the New Orange.” I marveled at the guys on my block watching the movie Life, and laughing at prison scenes. I don’t need to watch no damn documentary to learn that stuff. I lived it, teach it and teach in it. I ain’t gonna learn nothing.’

SO I thought.

I showed it to a group of university students last week. I learned a lot. No, I learned nothing new about the system, how it works, the inhumanity, the beat downs, the lockdowns, the unjust sentencing practices, the “war on drugs” which is really a war on people of color who use drugs. That’s not anything I learned. I learned just how uninformed this country is about the reality of how our criminal justice system exploits, oppresses and dehumanizes us all.