Airing Black America's "Dirty Laundry"?

Jesse Jackson set off a furor recently on a very sensitive issue, when he accused Barack Obama of "talking down to black people." African Americans have been debating for years on how tough to be on young black men. But as CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reports, the debate is over for one judge in Atlanta. He's decided to be tough enough to change lives.
Judge Marvin Arrington has had it.

"People are shooting, robbing people, dropping out of school," Arrington laments.

He says he's tired of seeing the same people in his Atlanta courtroom, over and over.

"Ninety percent of you are African Americans," he says to a courtroom packed with young black men.

Judge Arrington is offended -- and embarrassed.

"I wonder sometimes what in the world Dr. King and all them died for," he says.

It's a racial scolding. It's blunt, public and controversial.

"What in the world is going on? Why cannot we stop and get it right?" Arrington said in an interview with Strassmann.

In black America, a private family conversation about what's wrong, has gone public, and turned bitter. Take for example civil rights leader Jesse Jackson's reaction to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's Father's Day speech, in which the candidate chided young black men for being absentee fathers.

"Too many fathers are also missing, too many fathers are M.I.A.. Too many fathers are AWOL," Obama said last month.

In an unguarded moment this week, Jackson was clearly furious at Obama.

"I'd like to cut his n--ts off," Jackson fumed.

Not Arrington. He thinks the tough-love is long overdue. As a kid, Arrington was a bit of a thug, the sort of kid he often sees in court. Family and teachers set him straight.

"I was just hanging out being one of the boys," Arrington told Strassmann "And one day the light clicked on. I didn't want to be one of the boys."

Arrington's now trying to turn around the lives of others.

"You got a short life," he warned one defendant. "Try to make something out of it."

Get a job, get a degree, get a plan. Get it right. That's what the judge is trying to teach.

Arrington's even teamed up in Atlanta with Bill Cosby, who preaches the same message.

But not everyone in the black community supports their efforts. Critics call it a "Blame the Poor" tour. They resent men like Arrington and Cosby airing black America's dirty laundry in public.

"If you want to say that your children blowing each other's brains out, to mention it is dirty laundry, there's something wrong with you," Cosby said in response to the critics.

But Arrington has also taken it a step further. First he cleared his courtroom of all white people to chew out black defendants in private, in what he now admits was a mistake. A mistake that sent his critics howling.

"All I was trying to say to young people is, hey, we are for you," Arrington said. "Get yourself together."

Arrrington says early on, he learned if you see a good fight, get in it.

"You can't give up on it," he said. "You can't walk away. You can't close the door."

And he's vowed to continue this fight until the same faces stop walking through his door.
  • CBSNews

Comments

Follow Us