George Talbot, Alabama, March 29, 2013
State Rep. Joseph Mitchell, D-Mobile, has confirmed via social media and in interviews this week that he sent a series of racially charged emails in response to an inquiry from a Jefferson County man, saying his comments were misunderstood and that he saw no reason to apologize.
AL.com on Wednesday reported on the correspondence between Mitchell and Eddie Maxwell, a retired coal miner who sent a mass email to legislators in January advising them not to pass any new restrictions on gun owners.
Mitchell’s volatile response – he referred to Maxwell’s “slave-holding, murdering, adulterous, baby-raping, incestuous … kin folk” – exploded across the Internet, prompting state Democrats to condemn his remarks and Republicans to demand an apology.
Mitchell, who is black, has declined to respond to telephone, email and social media messages from AL.com seeking comment on the emails. But he appeared to address the controversy in a message posted to his Facebook account on Wednesday, hours after the story broke.
“I was NOT elected to make people happy. I was NOT elected to say what somebody ELSE wants me to say,” Mitchell wrote. “I got elected because I protect my community. Folk in other communities were electd (sic) to do the same thing. We do not need ‘leadership’ to go noplace.”
“I am a descendent of a run-away slave. If you have problems with THAT, then it’s YOUR PROBLEM,” he wrote. “If you would like citations that back my position on ANY subject or statement then (Facebook) mail me. I have more information than some folk wanna handle.”
Mitchell, a state representative since 1994, confirmed in an interview with the Associated Press that he wrote the emails. He said he was trying to explain that citizens who descended from slaves and were disenfranchised by the state constitution have a different view of history than white citizens.
Mitchell elaborated on his explanation in an interview published Wednesday by Lagniappe, an alternative newspaper in Mobile.
Mitchell, according to Lagniappe reporter Gabriel Tynes, downplayed his comments as “racial, not racist” and emphasized that he was talking about people in the past.
“Anything that I have said that was taken as racist is a misconception,” Mitchell said, according to Tynes.
“If somebody got irked that’s on them. What I was saying is if my kin folk 400 years ago had guns, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I’m in favor of guns and encourage everyone I know to have them because the last time we didn’t have them we were abused.”