Ava DuVernay’s new Netflix documentary 13th sheds light on the law that allows for the continuation of slavery in modern America. In a Complex interview with Pusha T, a fellow advocate against mass incarceration, DuVernay explains the “loophole” in the 13th Amendment that trumps the presumably abolished practice.
“Everybody knows the 13th Amendment of the Constitution says there shall be no slavery in the United States,” says DuVernay. “Most people don’t know that that is a lie. Right after it says there shall be no slavery, there’s a little clause, a little loophole, that says ‘except’ - the exception is, ‘except’ if we think you’re a criminal.”
She goes on to explain how America’s justice system practice of “you do the crime, you do the time,” as Pusha T describes, has become decisively racially bias and heavily monetized.
“If we’re gonna apply that adage equally across all citizens, then that would be fine, but the problem is we don’t,” says the director. “You and I do the crime,” she tells Pusha T, “and there is one penalty. Some of our friends in the room taping the interview do the crime,” referring to Complex’s White staffers, “it’s going to be something different.”
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“Exorbitant amounts of time [are] put on these sentences because these prisons need to keep bodies in there in order to stay afloat,” DuVernay continues.
DuVernay not only hopes that her documentary opens people’s minds to understanding the broken justice system at play in America, but also that it inspires change and judicial reform.
“If there’s anything, that is my hope with “13th;” it’s that it provide knowledge that can open up doors for compassion, that can open up to change,” she states.Watch the full interview below: 13th is currently streaming on Netflix.