By Roger Dean (Congratulations Graduate and Future Law School Student!)
In the 1996 American drama film, Ghosts of Mississippi, Bobby DeLaughter (Alec Baldwin) struggles trying to revive and finally rightfully prosecute Byron De La Beckwith (James Wood) for the murder of Medgar Evers with the help and support of Evers’ wife, Myrlie Evers (Whoopie Goldberg). As most people know, Medgar Evers was a black civil rights activist in Mississippi who was murdered by an assassin on June 12, 1963.
As a future prosecutor, I appreciated that even in this time it was not above the prosecutors to prosecute a white man charged with killing a white man. The way the justice system was back then and
the way that the world responded to events was very different than now. This is the reason why when Byron De La Beckwith, the suspected murderer, was tried both of his cases ended in hung juries. The film focuses on the process that Bobby took to bring Beckwith to justice. It caused troubles in his life professionally, publicly and privately. It gave his family some issues to deal with even though it was him that was causing all of the issues. It wasn’t actually his fault however. It was because of racism.
The major social issues that surround this film and this real life story are racism, justice and patience. The assassination of Medgar Evers was not only a political thing, but it was also a race thing most of all. Medgar Evers was attempting to integrate the University of Mississippi. There were people who did not agree with integration on secondary educational level. There are people who were genuinely upset with the Brown vs. Board of Education which is the Supreme Court landmark case that stated that segregating schools was unconstitutional. It was about bringing a murderer to justice. In the film, there are moments that take your breath away and make you want to forget that his a real event. This really happened. This atrocious event of racism was an insult to justice everywhere and it couldn’t stand. The patience that is displayed in this movie is awe inspiring. Mrs. Evers waited for a very long time to get justice for her husband. The trail made people wait to see how long it would take to see justice done. It took about 30 years to see justice done finally for the murder of a man who just wanted to change the world one state at a time.
My first initial reaction was to the disclaimer on the film that this is a real story. I knew that Medgar Evers was murdered, but I did not know all of this stuff actually happened to the people involved. I found the initial racism unsettling to me as the viewer. I see a lot of movies, and I know that usually they are just movies and they aren’t real, but with this movie it is very real. I can’t get over some of the really offensive things that were said during the movie. I’m not sure if all things said in the movie were actually said, but I know that people really talked like that in the 1960’s and after. It is one part that disgust me about our nation. This is like no other movie I have ever seen.
DeLaughter was doing his job. He was told to prosecute this case and all of these bad things happened. He was threatened. His family was put in danger. I can personally relate to his character. I will be a prosecutor and it will be an amazing when I finally reach those goals. He was discouraged by people he cared about. People thought he was foolish and crazy, but it paid off. I can’t wait to be a lawyer and send bad people away. It will be my job and I will love every second of it. I doubt however that I will ever get a case like this that was politically motivated, but I will make a difference.
I have seen many movies and I have been surprised before by plot twist points, but I was surprised by some of the language that was used during this film. When Beckwith was stating that he killed a “nigger” and that it should not be a crime. I was so taken aback by that. It was 1960’s and I thought it was a known fact that black people are people and citizens too. It just shocks me that people actually thought like that.
It is the story of Bobby DeLaughter case into stardom. It is the story of, Medgar’s wife, Myrlie Evers. The story that is not told is the story of Medgar Evers nor is the story of Beckwith. Both of those stories are important. People who watch this movie without some prior research on the person and activist of Medgar Evers will not know who he is. The bad part of Beckwith’s story is the only thing that is mentioned in regards to him. Their is a lot character testimony against Beckwith.
I learned what actually happened with the case and murder of Medgar Evers, but not in that order. I learned what other struggles a prosecutor could endure. I also learned that racism was still a prominent thing in the South in the 1990’s. I learned that Alec Baldwin can play another character besides funny.
As a black male, I have always felt this danger that people will try to hurt me or people I care about because of my race. Racism is not gone and it is not going anyway any time soon. I want to be a prosecutor so the death threats are a very real worry of mine, but I hope and pray for the best beause I am going to do it no matter what anyone says.
This film is very realistic because it did happen. Things like this still do happen. Trayvon Martin was murdered and his death turned into a political thing. The case was about if he was killed because of the color of his skin. Clearly being black is dangerous. Apparently being male is upsetting. Also, if you are young, you are suspicious. It is crazy to think about. People are still racist, but it is now not as obvious as it was years ago. This happens in our society all the time. “I didn’t mean it like that.” That phrase makes people think it is there fault if they are offended.
Again, racism is not going to go anywhere. Patience is a virtue. Hopefully people continue to have it. Things can change over time. People don’t change, but the situation does. In regards to justice, I am going to do my part by being the prosector for a very nice place. I hope to be successful in that. With racism though, Morgan Freeman said the best way to get rid of racism is to stop talking about it. We could start there. It is a human made thing. God created only one race, the human race. Humans created racism.