The 13th is an incredible documentary structural, systemic, and political racism. It looks at how policy since slavery has served to control and oppress black people. It is a powerful companion piece to Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Era of Colorblindness, a book I teach every semester. Both the documentary and the book detail how criminal justice policy, particularly since Nixon, and through to Clinton's crime bill, has made it legal and acceptable to designate black communities to secondary social status. The laws that serve to lock up disproportionate numbers of black americans, and the social policies that allow for discrimination against felons in housing, employment, education, and voting. Many black Americans today face the same obstacles that they did during Jim Crow.
The 13th offers powerful and disturbing visual parallels about violence against black people between the 20th and 21st centuries, and earlier eras of slavery and the KKK.