The Black Student Union hosted a showing of the documentary, 13th, on Tuesday night in collaboration with Sigma Delta Rho and Sigma Tau Delta.
The film investigated the social and political repercussions on the African American community in the wake of the abolishment of slavery by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
After the showing, there was a panel of three students and two faculty members to facilitate discussion and respond to audience questions about the content of the film.
“From Slave to Criminal in One Amendment,” the tagline of the documentary, summarized the framework of the film, which followed a chronology of events from the passing of the 13th Amendment in 1865 up until the 2016 presidential campaigns.
In attempt to dislodge misconceptions that racism is no longer an issue in the United States, the film examined the systems of oppression and their legacies that are still in place in the society and legislation of the nation today, focusing on mass incarceration.
“You have to look at the historical construct of how this country was created,” Zachary Johnson, senior political science and sociology major and a panelist, said, hitting on one of the main messages of the film. “You can’t sweep 400 years of oppression under the rug. This is not an accident by any means. It’s strategic.”
The account of the history of these legacies is explained and narrated by public figures and academics such as Angela Davis, Bryan A. Stevenson and Van Jones.
At the end of the movie, the panel opened the discussion to questions from the audience, discussing the issues discussed in the film as a whole in society, not the exact details of the film.
The hour-long discussion covered a myriad of topics and gleaned perspective from both members of the audience and the panel, much of the conversation boiled down to a need for awareness.
“At least being aware of the issues is a really good start, if enough people are doing it,” Sue Bailey, assistant professor of sociology and panelist, said.
Though action and change cannot happen instantaneously, becoming aware of the issues is a first step to enacting change.
Krishna Roka, assistant professor of sociology and panelist, reminded the audience that the companies profiting from the systems of oppression in the film “do not want to change. If we really want change, we have to demand change.”
The first step to awareness is for people to do research, seek out other perspectives and expand their knowledge bases.
“Now that you know, you can go educate other people. Instead of asking, ‘What can we do?’ you start with, ‘What can you do yourself?’” Kavana Price, junior sociology major and panelist, said.
Seeking out information is not enough though.
“Hopefully, we are teaching you to be critical thinkers, to question everything and not to buy the stuff we hear on TV or on the radio,” Bailey said. “The best thing we can do is not to trust what we hear, to find out for ourselves, to learn it and to communicate it to other people.”
13th, a Netflix original documentary, is available to stream on Netflix.