This story is part of an editorial series examining racial discrimination as the driving force behind mass incarceration in the United States, in partnership with Ava DuVernay’s ‘13TH.’
“Everybody knows the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution says that, ‘There shall be no slavery in the United States.’ Most people don’t know that that is a lie.” -Ava DuVernay
Ava DuVernay’s film 13TH examines racism as the driving force behind mass incarceration in the United States through the lens of a clause in the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. “There’s a little clause, a little loophole that says, ‘except,’” DuVernay explains. “And the exception is, ‘except if we think you are a criminal.’” In partnership with the film, Complex presents The Criminalization of Color, a collection of stories that breaks down the different ways racism infects the justice system in America.
To capture the magnitude of DuVernay’s work, the series examines racial discrimination in its most overt forms: woven into laws used to disproportionately penalize people and communities of color, written into immigration policies, and embedded in institutions like the police force. It also seeks to unearth less visible forms of racism, indirect biases that lay beneath the surface of conversations, artistic and cultural representations, and the basic exchanges within day-to-day life in the U.S.
We look to DuVernay herself for insight into the film’s core ideas, as well as influential thinkers for their personal and professional perspectives. They include Black Lives Matter founders Opal Tometi and Johnetta Elzie, rapper and activist Pusha T, cultural advocates Russell Simmons and Karen Civil, scholar and author Khalil Gibran Muhammad, journalist and co-founder of The Young Turks Cenk Uygur, and Noble Wray—the retired Wisconsin police chief appointed by President Obama to lead the Policing Practices and Accountability Initiative.
Read the stories rolling out on Complex ahead of the 2016 Presidential Election, and most importantly, watch Ava DuVernay’s incredible film 13TH, available exclusively on Netflix.