This discussion guide is designed to get you and your colleagues learning and talking about racism. This guide forms part of a six-week Black Lives Matter Discussion Group series that we had internally at Hive Learning. We’ve published this guide so you can use it to have honest, uncomfortable and entirely necessary conversations about racism with your team, too.
Ava DuVernay’s Netflix documentary, 13TH, was released in 2016. Four years later, the murder of George Floyd sparked a reawakening for the Black Lives Matter movement and public interest in the subject of race and injustice.
Netflix tweeted that in the three week’s after George Floyd’s murder, there was a 4,665% increase in viewers seeking out 13TH. The streaming service shared the documentary on YouTube for free so that everyone can access this essential education.
Named after the Thirteenth Amendment, the documentary examines a clause that it argues is essentially a loophole in the laws against slavery in the US.
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.”
13TH explains how mass incarceration came to be in the US and is clear about the politicians and businesses who have fed into and profited from the incarceration system.
It literally is like a wake-up call… You come away from this film and you feel differently about the mass incarceration system in this country and you feel differently about what justice and injustice looks like.
Oprah Winfrey in 13TH: A Conversation with Oprah Winfrey & Ava DuVernay
Here’s what you’ll need:
Time: 1 hour (plus an additional 1.5 hours to watch the resource)
Resources: Key resource, discussion questions, anything you usually need for any remote joiners
This guided discussion will:
⚡ Explain the history of the mass incarceration issue in the US
⚡ Encourage your team to explore the systemic racism embedded in today’s US criminal justice system
⚡ Question the different experiences we have with police based on our race
⚡ Invite everyone to think about the ethics of the prison system where you live
Key resource: 13TH, a documentary by Ava DuVernay (1 hr 40 mins)
🔗 Link: https://youtu.be/krfcq5pF8u8
Questions to think about and discuss
💡 Have you ever seen a police officer acting in a questionable manner? What did you do? What do you think stopped that crowd around George Floyd from stepping in and physically trying to stop his murder?
💡 With more people able to record the police and hold them accountable on social media, do you think real change will have to happen now?
💡 There have been growing calls to defund the police (where resources are reallocated and directed into other initiatives that might improve public safety) What are your thoughts on this?
💡 A right to a fair trial is a fundamental human right. It’s Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Why do you think people are persuaded to ‘waive’ this right and choose a plea bargain? What other violations of rights are excused in this documentary and in society as a whole?
💡 Obviously 13TH is an American documentary, but its themes are not unique to the U.S. If you don’t live in the U.S., what’s different about where you live? And what’s the same? Do you think as a society we focus enough on racism?
💡 As more prisons become farmed out to private companies (for example, G4S in the UK etc) will it become profitable to put more people in prison for longer? And how do you think this will affect Black people in the British prison system?
One week before
✅ Send out an email and calendar invitation including the link and discussion questions.
One day before
✅ Send a reminder to everyone to watch the key resource before the session. Note down some of your own thoughts which you can share to prompt others to do the same.
On the day
- Welcome everyone and introduce the key resource and discussion topic, which is the documentary 13TH and the subject of race and mass incarceration. (3 mins)
- Ask everyone for their initial thoughts from watching the film. What resonated with them most? (5 mins)
- Work through the discussion questions. Be mindful of the time and nudge the conversation on to the next topic when someone stops speaking. If people need more encouragement to speak, start by sharing your thoughts. (50 mins)
- Wrap up by thanking everyone for attending and for their input. Let everyone know that they are welcome to continue the conversation in your company’s social channels and to share feedback on the discussion with you. (3 mins)
✅ Send a follow-up email to thank participants and to re-share the resource and questions with anyone who couldn’t attend.
Want to learn more? Listen to author of The New Jim Crow Michelle Alexander’s TEDx Columbus talk, The future of race in America and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative Bryan Stevenson’s TED Talk, We need to talk about an injustice.
Six tiny ways to build trust
Academic Brené Brown's research found that trust isn't earned through sweeping, grand gestures. Trust is built in very small...
Is choosing to be silent a form of privilege?
It's natural to feel uncomfortable talking about difficult subjects. But is choosing comfort and avoiding difficult conversations...
Help your whole team to be their whole selves
Most workplaces have some sort of in-group. And everyone is aware — consciously or subconsciously — of what defines who's...
What stops you from talking about diversity?
Talking about diversity still makes many of us uncomfortable. But starting these discussions is important.