Editor’s note: Meet my friend Ralph Mitchell. Ralph and I grew up in the same segregated Southern town in military families and both had our lives impacted by the war in Vietnam. Ralph is a veteran, a Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army Reserves. He is CEO of his own financial investment company and lives in Massachusetts. He writes screenplays and loves history. You can connect with Ralph on LinkedIn & Facebook.
By Ralph Mitchell
As a Black man, I always thought that it was ironic that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was created back in 1866. This came just three years after the Emancipation Proclamation when President Lincoln freed the slaves.
Before 1863 when slavery was in force, any Psycho or Sicko with enough money in hand could go to the local slave market, purchase a live human being … and then do to them whatever he so pleased. Nothing was off the table. Those slaves (Men and Women) could be worked to the point of physical exhaustion, brutally beaten without mercy; and even forced to submit to any any all sexual demands imposed upon them. Slaves had zero rights as Human Beings.
After the formation of the ASPCA and the Jim Crow Era of Racial Segregation was in effect until Civil Rights were granted in 1964, the farm animals and house pets of White people had more rights than Negro citizens.
If some drunkard brutalized a woman’s house cat and hung it by the neck, that perpetrator would be charged with a crime and arrested. If a rancher’s prize Bull was stolen, somebody would be held accountable and face criminal charges. But during that 100 years of the Jim Crow Era (1863 to 1964) Black men could be hauled out of jail by drunken mobs, beaten and lynched; Black women could be raped and Black children could be sexually molested and murdered … and no perpetrators were ever even arrested. Property that belonged to Black people could be stolen by Whites who got away scott-free! Why? Because Black people officially had no Human Rights nor any Legal Rights prior to 1964.Even though the laws had officially changed in 1964, the attitudes and behavior among certain people did not begin to change until decades later. Mainly because their lies and bigotry began to die off with them.
Prime example, look at what happened to Medgar Evers, a WW2 Veteran who served in the US Army in Western Europe and fought the Nazis. After the war he was a very outspoken Civil Rights leader and was active with the NAACP in Mississippi citing many of the injustices being imposed against Black (or Colored) People. It was Byron De La Beckwith who assassinated Medgar Evers in June of 1963. Even President Kennedy saw this as an unjust tragedy.
Beckwith was arrested and received official Indictments. But when he went to trial, two all-white juries from that local area eventually became “hung juries” and refused to hold him guilty in spite of blatant evidence that proved him as being guilty. After his release he openly bragged in public about how he killed Medgar Evers. It was not until 30 years later that Beckwith finally was taken back to court, found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. What would have happened to Evers if the roles were reversed and it was him that shot Beckwith? God only knows! But justice would certainly not have taken 30 years.
Although a courtroom trial is supposed to consist of a jury of one’s peers, this has rarely been the case whenever it has come to Black men. A true jury of one’s peers would by people who ALL are of the same gender and ethnicity as the Defendant. In Beckwith’s first two trials, that may have been the case where he was tried by Juries composed of nothing but White southern men armed with with attitudes of White Supremacy. But when it came to the Central Park Five (now called the Exonerated Five) this was NOT the case. All five of those young men were convicted by all White juries who saw them as being nothing but dangerous “animals” that were threats to society in spite of sketchy evidence and certain facts not being admitted in court.
Just look at the case in Minnesota that is taking place right now. Another unarmed Black man being killed by White cops who simply acted as Judge, Jury and Executioner. And only one has actually been charged (not convicted) with any crime. Would this have been the case had it been Black cops that killed an unarmed White man? Hell no!
As a Black man I feel as though the entire Criminal Justice System needs to be completely reformed with crooked cops and over zealous DAs being held personally accountable for actions on their part that were later proven wrong. As examples: fabricated evidence, confessions that came only after physical beatings. Forged confessions. Suppression of evidence that could prove innocence. Abuse of power needs to become a felony with serious penalties as a result.
Some White people scoff at the idea of Reparations to Black people. The Whites argue that Slavery was a very long time ago, records are too sketchy and that since there have been so many people of color that have migrated into America over the past 50 years it would be too difficult to tell who would be eligible. Also, why should they see their tax dollars go to pay for Slavery Reparations, when they have never owned any Slaves?
My answer has always been to base Reparations on the Jim Crow Era that lasted for 100 years after Slavery and ran until 1964. Separate and unequal was the law of the land. Whites got automatic preference while Blacks got the exact opposite. This translated not only to public education and the funding of tax dollars, but also translated into private sector employment and job opportunities. Whites easily got hired into jobs with paychecks whereas Blacks got “excuses.” Anybody of African ancestry with a valid American birth certificate could prove their ancestry with certified copies of their Birth Certificates. Back in the day, some towns in America listed the race of the newborn child as well as the race of the mother and the father. In the most egregious of towns, race was not listed as being “Negro” but entered as “nigger”. This just goes to show how oppressive the racial climate really was to those people prior to 1964. Those who are older should be the ones to eventually receive the most money. Whatever they do not personally spend, they could pass along to their heirs or to charity just like the elders within well to do White families.
Now don’t get me wrong. I do NOT see all White people as being inherently evil. Look back at history. John Brown was a White man and he was totally an outspoken opponent of Slavery and was one of the first to lay down his life in the Civil War. According to my official DNA my bloodline is 75% Africa,, 15% European and 10% Asian or Native American. How could i possibly hate what is inside of me? Furthermore many of my dearest friends have been White ever since I grew up on an Army post in Germany when my Dad was a soldier. I never had any problems getting along with anybody because I never looked at any differences, but instead I looked at what made us all similar.