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US History: “Locked Out of America” Video Essay

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Updated: Apr 8th, 2021

What is the main argument of the video?

The video under discussion is devoted to the problem of injustice and inequality. The program’s guest, Michelle Alexander, describes the cast system that has been created in the USA within the past decades, and within which the rights of different population groups are violated outrageously.

Summarize the video from start to finish

The analyzed video summarizes the discriminating activity targeted at felons. Michelle Alexander, the guest, describes her observations that she has been collecting throughout the years of a detailed problem examination. The first problem that the author mentions while speaking about the challenges which felons meet trying to integrate into society is employment. Hence, according to Alexander, finding a job is “next to impossible” for a former felon. 1

In other words, an ex-felon might only account for a low-paid occupation that does not require having the relevant license. Alexander explains this phenomenon by the fact that the American society is rather immature from the civil rights perspective. In other words, its tolerance capacity is rather low regardless of the slogans that it proclaims. The woman believes that the root of this civil radicalism might be found in the past when the Civil Movement took a wrong shift to the increase in the legislative pressure.2

The video content offers a brief overview of the key flaws of the American justice system. Thus, Michelle Alexander suggests distinguishing such drawbacks as the excessive power of persecutors, mandatory minimum sentences, and dominating racial prejudices. The latter is determined by the growing fear of immigrants that create a negative image of a foreigner in the American minds. 3

Another part of the video is devoted to political analysis. Michelle Alexander believes that the general political strategy substitutes real actions with powerful slogans – the administration does not perform any activity to minimize the social inequality. The woman believes that the alternative solution resides in the social initiative – community movements should strive to improve the surrounding environment from the bottom. She is convinced that the idea of equality that is an integral part of the American mentality, is still alive so that social movements should not drop the fight. 4

Does the video give time to opposing viewpoints? If so, are opposing viewpoints treated in an equal manner? Why or why not?

The video does not imply a direct opposition of views. Thus, the speakers mainly agree upon the key discussion points. In the meantime, it can be suggested that Michelle Alexander opposes her arguments to the social assumptions and prejudices. Every idea that the author offers is accompanied by the relevant social stereotype. Hence, for instance, when the author describes the racial discrimination that seems to be increasing within the American society, she points out that it is determined by the negative image of the immigrants that are imposed on the nation making it fear the representatives of a different race or nationality. 5

On the whole, the discussion is led in a tolerant tone; the speakers do not reject the opposite viewpoints but try to find the counterarguments to show their inconsistency. Therefore, it might be concluded that it is a persuasive speech rather than a debate – the video elucidates alternative opinions without criticizing them.

How does the documentarian use sounds, video, images, camera movements, etc. to convey their message?

The video is a discussion between Moyers and Alexander. No special sound or image movements are employed so that the audience can focus on the pivot message.

How does this video strengthen or undermine what we have discussed or read in class?

Several points show that the video supports the course materials. First and foremost, it emphasizes the complexity of the inequality problem. In other words, it shows that social inequality is determined by several factors. First and foremost, it is the justice system. Hence, justice is provided by people that are not free of different sorts of prejudices and stereotypes. As a result, it turns out that certain population groups are naturally discriminated against.

Second, the video illustrates the problem associated with the social integration of particular population groups. Hence, such groups as ex-felons or immigrants have to face numerous challenges integrating into the American social structure. These people are surreptitiously discriminated in different life spheres: occupation, education, healthcare, etc. The root of the discrimination is social prejudices that are cultivated by the mass media and imposed on the American residents. Hence, for instance, the image of an immigrant is intentionally distorted – the latter is portrayed as a potentially dangerous individual that should be excluded from the key spheres of American life.

Finally, the video puts a particular emphasis on the important role of the social movements that were discussed throughout the course. Hence, it illustrates that the practical change often begins with the social initiative rather than the governmental activity. The latter is the result of the long-lasting fight led by particular population groups for their rights. On the face of it, the government powerfully affects society. Meanwhile, the reversed connection should not be overlooked. The social tendencies shape the government’s decisions largely – the former has to adjust its actions to avoid public unrest.

Explain why the video was or was not engaging? Also, explain why the video was or was not educationally valuable?

The discussed video was very engaging as it offered a fresh approach to the problem of social injustice and inequality. It also comprised a highly inspiring message pointing out the changing capacity of the society. Therefore, it not only discussed the most critical problems associated with injustice but also offered the alternative measures that can be taken to eliminate them.

The video is likewise valuable from an educational perspective. Thus, Alexander’s arguments are supported by years of research and study. Also, the author tries to find an appropriate example from the leaf to translate the message to the target audience.


Alexander, Michelle. “Locked Out of America.” Moyers & Company video, 35:25. 2015. Web.


  1. Michelle Alexander. “Locked Out of America.” Moyers & Company video, 35:25. 2015. Web.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
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