• Sarah Rozmiarek

An Extra Strong Recommendation To Watch 13th On Netflix

Updated: Jul 22, 2020

You should definitely watch Ava DuVernay’s documentary, 13th, on Netflix. I learned so many shocking things I didn’t know before. It also contextualized some things I knew, but didn’t quite understand how they fit into the big picture. Even after the movie, there were so many things I wanted to know more about, and this post will dive a little deeper into some of those topics, specifically the ones surrounding political campaigns. .

13th is named for the 13th Amendment in the Constitution, which is, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The movie explains how that line, ‘except as a punishment for crime,’ is a huge loophole that has kept slavery of Black Americans legal until this day.

Nixon and the Southern Strategy

Nixon got southern poor whites to join the Republican Party by calling out crime, which was a dog whistle to racists. He used phrases like, “Get tough. Law and order. War on drugs.”

Lee Atwater, a real WTF piece of work

“You start out in 1954 by saying, “N*****, n*****, n*****.” By 1968 you can’t say “n*****”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N*****, n*****.”

William Horton’s effect on the Bush vs. Dukakis election

William Horton was a Black man convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison in Massachusetts without the possibility of parole. He was released one weekend on furlough, and never returned. Almost a year later, he committed assault, armed robbery, and rape, before he was captured and returned to prison, this time in Maryland.

All the while, Democrat Michael Dukakis was governor of Massachusetts. Even though he didn’t start the weekend furlough program, he did support it, as a measure to rehabilitate criminals. During his presidential campaign against George H. W. Bush, he was criticized for his relaxed approach to crime, and Bush repeatedly mentioned Dukakis’ connection to the Horton case. Later, Bush supporters released this ad, attacking Dukakis. The ad uses a headshot of Horton, clearly showing he is a Black man. The Bush campaign claimed to not have any involvement in that ad, but they later released this ad,


Convict leasing

Convict leasing was when business owners in industries like farming, rail road, mining and logging operations throughout the South would “lease” convicts from prisons, mostly Black men. Police would arrest Black men for minor offenses, and then lease the prisoners to business owners, and the lessees were in complete control of the prisoners, including feeding, clothing, and housing. The government literally sold Black people to early corporate America, and exploited them and forced them to provide free labor.

This line really stuck with me. “People ask, ‘how was slavery tolerated, how was segregation tolerated, how was Jim Crow tolerated, I never would have tolerated that.’ But you’re tolerating it right now.”