The Mixed Story of Racism: A Black Judge’s Sentencing Speech to 3 White Murderers

U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves, for the Southern District of Mississippi. Courtesy of


A Black Mississippi Judge’s Breathtaking Speech To 3 White Murderers : Code Switch : NPR.


This is worth your time to read. 3 white men in Mississippi were sentenced for the brutal and racially motivated killing of 48 year old James Anderson.  These men were involved in an escalating pattern of violence that echoes the “ni&&er hunts” that have punctuated this state’s past.  Beware the article does use the “N” word a number of times in reflecting on the evils of racism and the troubled history of that state.

“In Without Sanctuary, historian Leon Litwack writes that between 1882 and 1968 an estimated 4,742 blacks met their deaths at the hands of lynch mobs”

According to the judge, these acts were committed by young men who were described by others, ‘as “a fine young man,” “a caring person,” “a well mannered man” who is truly remorseful and wants to move on with his life … a very respectful … a good man … a good person … a lovable, kindhearted teddy bear who stands in front of bullies…’  The men were incriminated by video evidence and their own guilty pleas.

The events themselves reveal that there is more need for progress.  The end of the speech shows that change has been on the march and this is encouraging.  There is a satisfying irony in this, that only enhances the justice of the proceedings.

“Today, though, the criminal justice system (state and federal) has proceeded methodically, patiently and deliberately seeking justice. Today we learned the identities of the persons unknown … they stand here publicly today. The sadness of this day also has an element of irony to it: Each defendant was escorted into court by agents of an African-American United States Marshal, having been prosecuted by a team of lawyers which includes an African-American AUSA from an office headed by an African-American U.S. attorney — all under the direction of an African-American attorney general, for sentencing before a judge who is African-American, whose final act will be to turn over the care and custody of these individuals to the BOP [Federal Bureau of Prisons] — an agency headed by an African-American.

“Today we take another step away from Mississippi’s tortured past … we move farther away from the abyss.”