A Tennessee judge fed up with Black-on-Black crime argued that Black men are more of a danger to other Black men than white Klansmen ever were.
During a preliminary hearing for a man charged with murder last Thursday, Montgomery County Judge Wayne Shelton delivered a scathing rebuke for what he called a “lack of respect for human life,” specifically among African-American men, according to the Leaf Chronicle. Shelton said he’s always believed “Black lives matter” but lamented that “no one’s listening.”
“I grew up in a time where people wore white robes and they shot at Black people,” he told accused killer Vincent Bryan Merriweather. “And now we see young Black men wearing black hoodies shooting at Black men — and doing a much more effective job than the Klan ever thought about doing.” The exact number of men, women and children who were murdered and victimized by the Klan is unknown. Some estimates put just the number of lynchings at over 4,000 in various southern states.
Merriweather, 26, is among three men charged with murder following an incident that started at a middle school basketball game and quickly escalated into gunfire when “two of the men’s feet brushed in the stand” and led to a “stare-down” and argument between Merriweather’s group and that of another man. The victim, 22-year-old Antorius Gallion, was later pursued in a car and fatally shot in the head as he drove along a street with his brother and girlfriend in Clarksville, a northern suburb of Nashville.
This isn’t the first time Shelton has given a lecture on Black-on-Black crime. The Leaf-Chronicle reported that Shelton brought up the issue at a hearing for two teens accused of gunning down another man after a graduation party in 2015.
“That’s the absolute tragedy,” he said, arguing that the “Klan doesn’t exist anymore.” “It’s black men killing black men.”
“Who doesn’t care about Black lives now?” he added. “I’ll let you answer that. I’m tired of black men killing black men. If I offended anyone … I can’t help it.”
Despite the judge’s claims, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hate Map” shows that there are at least two active KKK chapters in the state of Tennessee, the state where the white supremacist group was born.
Shelton later told the newspaper he isn’t the “whitest man in the room” because his “great-great-great-great grandfather was a free man of color in the 1860s.”
The judge’s framing elides the fact that Klan violence against blacks historically was committed with impunity — much like that of police violence today — which always made it of a different nature than black-on-black crime, for which suspects could face punishment.