Almost an hour ago, I left my only class for the day after concluding the stunning and informative documentary “The 13th.” It fits into our current studies, in which we have been focusing on how race is portrayed in the media. Recently, we read some writings from Michelle Alexander on the subject of mass incarceration as the new slavery, disproportionately affecting people of color. This documentary went through the history of incarceration in the United States, highlighting the prison population during certain years. It was surprising that, in the 1970s, the prison population was close to 300,000—in 2000, it was dramatically inflated to over 2.1 million people. Although the United States constitutes just 5% of the world’s population, according to the documentary, it is home to 25% of the world’s jailed population.
If you were like I was at the beginning of this race unit of my class, you may wonder just how mass incarceration, something most people have been used to for many decades, can come close to being called slavery. It didn’t take much looking to drive the truth of this comparison home.