Break out of the Colby bubble with Netflix’s must-see movie 13th

This Oscars season has presented us with many, critically acclaimed films. Many incorporate extensive social commentary, including Moonlight, Hidden Figures, Manchester By the Sea, and Fences. One that made a different Oscar nomination list  is the newly released Netflix documentary 13th.

Although 13th covers a heavy subject matter, the implementation of the 13th Ammendment, in some ways it eases one’s mind that the unprecedented actions happening in our countries are not the first, nor will it be the last, moments of overt oppression in our country. The documentary sheds light on how structural inequalities are ingrained in American culture and government policies.

You may pass by 13th as you scroll through your Netflix account and think to yourself that it could be too dark or harsh for that moment. Colby students often blame the “Colby bubble” for their lack of political activism and engagement. However, this film can help you break through that feeling of distance, and challenge yourself to move past that slight fear to watch it.

This movie is thought provoking and chilling. It is engaging and tear-jerking. The film features well-acclaimed scholars, government officials, lobbyists, and activists– from Angela Davis to Newt Gingrich. The film depicts the historical roots of mass incarceration, including Jim Crow and segregation laws. The film highlights these connections between our tainted history and racism today.

Asserting that our society is post-race is one of the most destructive ways that we, as Colby students, can approach race and its relation to our prison system. The documentary was incredibly eye-opening, and in such an interdisciplinary way. It shed light on an array of issues from varying perspectives that contribute to the prison industrial complex, including corporate involvement in lobbying, government policy, and history of civil rights. The film displays the power of media and documentary storytelling can have on spreading awareness about important issues in our country.

Furthermore, I urge you to talk about the film with your peers, professors, teammates and friends. The movie ends with a provoking question of what constitutes being a bystander to injustice today versus what constituted it in America’s past. As Colby students, we must take initiative to educate ourselves outside of the classroom and engage with critical forms of media in a more relaxed and individual-driven setting like that of a Netflix movie.

It has become incredibly clear that the current events and the history that has shaped these events need to be analyzed by critical thinkers like ourselves. It is time that we take the “critical thinking” skills that we champion in our resumes and apply them to the realities that many Americans must face outside of the Colby bubble.

The documentary sheds light on a breadth of different perspectives and thoughts that are both important and incredibly interesting. I highly recommend 13th to those who may not usually consider yourself to be politically engaged and to those who are unsure of how we got here and where do we go.

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