By Nick Williams ’21 and Griffin Winter ’21
With the upcoming Brophy summit focusing on the issues of race in America, it is important for students to stay informed on the history of race and racism to inform the future.
The documentary ‘13th’, which was directed by Ava DuVernay and released in 2016, is an in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation’s history of racial inequality. The name “13th” came from the thirteenth amendment, which abolished slavery.
In the film, Duvernay explores the many ways how slavery is still present and legal in today’s society.
First-year teacher Mr. Maanik Chotalla ’16 showed the documentary to students in his Conflict in the Modern World classes due to the nature of racial tensions in society today.
“What I really like about ‘13th’ is that it examines history in a really unique sense. It takes a certain perspective, the view of criminality as a whole, and it discusses evolution over time,” said Mr. Chotalla, who explained why this documentary is important.
“I think that is a much more palpable way to understand how racism has evolved over the years. That it wasn’t always illegal to be racist, but that in fact, the law sometimes enables us to have racism when we don’t even realize it,” Mr. Chotalla said. “I was really impressed by the layout of the documentary, the chronological order that they go in, how they tackle it from not only a political perspective, but very much from the social perspective. I really loved that about the documentary so I was like ‘this is really well made’ so I wanted to show it.”
As a result of Mr. Chotalla showing the documentary in class, many students were given a new perspective about race and racism in America.
One of Mr. Chotalla’s students, Quentin Cibulka ’21, talked about his experience watching the documentary.
“I found it extremely informative and eye-opening due to my lack of knowledge on the subject in the first place,” Cibulka said.
“I think it was important to watch the film because it isn’t something I would normally click on to watch but having that experience was valuable to me as I was so ignorant of the facts of the situation,” Cibulka said.
Cibulka said that liked the documentary due to the fact that there was little commentary on the subject but was mainly filled with factual evidence.
Masen Schecterle ’21, another student who watched the film, had a similar reaction.
“I never knew much about the unequal representation of America within the prison system. I am a big believer in the Criminal Justice System. I think it does many things right within the Constitution, but I was very surprised to see how vulnerable the system is to making mistakes against people of color,” Schecterle said.
Mr. Chotalla also talked about being able to accept our past wrongdoings as a society.
“Racism is not an accidental phenomenon. The reality is that we have gotten here because of what has happened in history. I think it is really important for us to accept that, which the documentary does a great job of covering,” Mr. Chotalla said.