ATLANTA — A black judge says he was wrong to evict whites from his courtroom so he could deliver a stern lecture to black defendants, but says he meant no harm.
“I wanted to have a fireside chat,” Fulton Superior Court Judge Marvin Arrington said Thursday. “And my grandmother said years ago that if you’re going to fuss at black people, you don’t need to do it in front of white people.”
He added, “I probably made a bad judgment call and I probably won’t do it again. It was not ill-intended. My heart was in the right place.”
Last Thursday — sentencing day in his courtroom — Arrington asked all white people to leave the room before he lowered the boom on the defendants, telling them that bad behavior in poorer black neighborhoods drags down black advancement.
He delivered a similar message at this Thursday’s sentencings, only with no race restrictions. TV news crews were on hand because of the controversy generated by Arrington’s move last week.
The judge talked about several killings and other violent crimes, including one in which his own brother was robbed while unlocking the door to his home. He said the gunman put a pistol in his brother’s mouth.
“We have insanity going on in the black community,” Arrington said. “If we don’t say something, the infrastructure of this community is going to collapse. It will be like living in the wild, wild West.”
He said he managed to avoid bad choices as a young man because his own mother gave good advice, schoolteachers took an interest in him and he feared his father’s retribution. Today, he said, “babies having babies” and parents who don’t act like parents have made what were always tough neighborhoods far worse.
Arrington said he won’t keep quiet in the future, but he’ll be more inclusive.