Film: 13th (Ava DuVernay, 2016)

Real Talk, Real Walk™ Monthly Livestream: August 17, 2023 @ 12pm

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It’s August, and we are focusing our attention to the prison industrial complex.

In July, we dived into an important conversation about the school-to-prison-pipeline. But, for many, that conversation left us asking ourselves “why.”

Why is the school-to-prison-pipeline so persistent?

Why is the history of resistance to the school-to-prison-pipeline decades long?

By August, when we shifted our focus on Ava DuVernay’s. documentary, 13th, some of those questions are starting to. be answered.

13th centres the lived realities of non-white people caught in state sanctioned oppression. But it does something else too: It reveals in no uncertain terms the SYSTEM that oppresses. As academics and advocates who had grappled with this “why” for decades explained how the over-representation of Black people in the carceral system came to pass, they focused their attention on the intersections of race, poverty, and class. And in so doing, they illuminated the driving force behind both the school-to-prison-pipeline and the prison industrial complex.

What is the driving force, you ask? What allows these racist systems to reproduce themsevles in new and “legal” ways?


And white women’s fear, in particular, remains critical to this re-organizing.

The mutation of racism

As the institution of slavery was challenged, new ways of justifying the replication of the same racial hierarchies were needed. Entire systems were established to ensure that Black people continued to facilitate the creation of wealth and social mobility of their white peers. Language morphed from being overtly racist, to covertly so. Ideas like being “tough on crime” and “law and order” became code for state actions that disproportionately harmed Black and Latino communities in the U.S. In Canada, a parallel process happened as we consumed shows like “Cops” depicting state sanctioned violence in lower-income, mostly Black communities, internalizing ideas about what a “criminal” looks like and what types of punishment they should experience.

When we talk about “systems of oppression,” this is exactly what we mean.

So, as you watch and re-watch Ava Duvernay’s 13th (2016) in August, try to remember that a system that wants to maintain the status quo suggests that the prison industrial complex and the school-to-prison-pipeline are unrelated. It makes you fear the “other” and it leads you to justify state violence – violence that is physical, psychological, and social.

But you’ve engaged with ideas in the e(RACE)r Institute since May. And you know that there is often more than meets the eye when a system claims neutrality.

Racism transforms and re-organizes in any way it needs. And, as terrifying as that might sound, at the e(RACE)r institute we hold onto this:

Once you know what to look for – once you begin to recognize how racism is organizing and operating TODAY – the resistance can re-organize too.

Got it?


Let’s dive in…

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