“Do the Right Thing”

A conversation about Criminal Justice in America

By Ralph Darrell Warren
The Truth Contributor

Ralph Warren

Everything must change. Nothing the stays the same.

In 1640, the John Punch case was the first case which illustrated racial disparity in the criminal justice system. The righteous arm of the universe demands that courts “Do t

he right thing.” Here’s how this case began. In 1640 as most know there was no slavery. There was indentured servitude. In short this meant whites and blacks worked for wealthy owners of plantations for a number of years and was paid, most times poorly, and then set free.

Because most were mistreated and overworked it is natural to conceive that one would tire both mentally and physically and would desire to run off. This is what John Punch did, a man of African descent, and Victor a Dutchman (white) and James Gregory a Scotsman (white).

Well, they got about far as Maryland and were caught and brought back to Virginia to stand trial. It was a crime to leave indentured servitude before one’s contract expired.

All three defendants were given 30 stripes. The two white men were sentenced to finishing their servitude and then three additional years of service to the colony. But John Punch, the black man, was sentenced to life of servitude. This meant he and his family were bound to be servants for the rest of their life.

The court did not “Do the right thing.”

It is important to know the John Punch case has special significance in history that is related to the present day. Historians and genealogists have linked John Punch to being the 11th great grandfather of President Barack Obama. President Obama’s 11th great grandsire was a victim of the first racial disparity case in the United States who was sentenced to a life of indentured servitude and ignited the fuel to begin chattel slavery in America.

This gives us pause and makes us wonder.

Did President Obama consider this when he granted clemency to 1,715 people in the federal system, many of whom were sentenced to life without the possibility for release, and pardons to 212 individuals? These totals were more than all the previous presidents combined. President Obama did the right thing. He saw injustice and he used his authority to “Do the Right Thing.”

Without President Obama this writer would not have hadthe opportunity to stand and represent the underdogs of this community or this land.

Everything must change. Nothing the stays the same.

The American criminal justice system has documented historical change. Technology has indeed played an important role. First, the television which dramatized the horrific scenes of the hatred of the South and now the cellphone which equips even the youngest of Americans with means of making go viral every dreadful act of racial injustice and disparity.

Evil can no longer hide its invisible ugly head. The George Floyd case was the wicked event which broke the camel’s back and enraged even white Americans as racial injustices in the 1960’s had done.

Doing the Right Thing, which the righteous arm of justice required, came as a price: Evil is no

longer the order of the day. Radical whites whether in authority or as covert actors can no longer kill or injure people of color at will without severe consequences. The warning is written in the clouds.

I wonder what John Punch would say from his heavenly mansion. I wonder what the angels of justice are saying as we witness this change, no matter how gradual. They are aware like many people that because of the browning of America there will be resistance, but change will be complete one day. John Punch would be proud to know the day of racial disparity and injustice is vanishing like a mist in the air.


Ed. Note: Ralph Warren received clemency for President Obama in 2017 and now works in the social service field. Ralph Darrell Warren is an author, producer and screenwriter. His latest novel Rain will be published soon. He is currently working on an Exodus, a documentary film about the impact of mass incarceration on the family and community.