Young Quits As Walmart Spokesman Amid Racial Comments Flap


Just in case you thought Virginia Senator George Allen was the only person who seems tolerance-challenged and suffers from foot-in-mouth disease, think again:

Atlanta Civil rights leader Andrew Young, who was hired to help Wal-Mart Stores Inc. improve its public image, said early Friday he was stepping down from his position as head of an outside support group amid criticism for remarks seen as racially offensive.

“I think I was on the verge of becoming part of the controversy, and I didn’t want to become a distraction from the main issues, so I thought I ought to step down,” Young, a former Atlanta mayor and U.N. ambassador, told The Associated Press.

Young, 74, once a close associate of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., said his decision to step down followed a report in the weekly Los Angeles Sentinel, which he said was misread and misinterpreted.

In the Sentinel interview, Young was asked about whether he was concerned Wal-Mart causes smaller, mom-and-pop stores to close.

“Well, I think they should; they ran the ‘mom and pop’ stores out of my neighborhood,” the paper quoted Young as saying. “But you see, those are the people who have been overcharging us, selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they’ve ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it’s Arabs; very few black people own these stores.”

So let’s get this straight for a second: Young has been someone who has been working for racial tolerance? And he’s a role model…?

But he did apologize (the panacea in America):

Young, who has apologized for the remarks, said he decided to end his involvement with Working Families for Wal-Mart after he started getting calls about the story.

“Things that are matter-of-fact in Atlanta, in the New York and Los Angeles environment, tend to be a lot more volatile,” he said.

That’s an apology….(I think…?)

And Walmart? At a time when the chain is working hard to burnish its image on several fronts (and Democratic politicos tend to be a lot more critical of it than Republicans) let’s simply say they were not amused. The chain apparently wants lower prices, not lower standards:

Reading a statement to CBS Radio News, Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley said Friday that the company supported Young’s decision to resign and that Young’s comments do not reflect Wal-Mart’s views.

“We are appalled by those comments,” Simley said. “We are also dismayed that they would come from someone who has worked so hard for so many years for equal rights in this country.”

Simley declined to comment on how the situation might affect Working Families for Wal-Mart.

“Ambassador Young’s comments do not represent our feelings toward the Jewish, Asian or Arab communities, or any other diverse community,” he said.

Even more interesting are the comments of a prominent Jewish leader — who did not look the other way just because Young apologized:

The remarks surprised Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, who pointed to Young’s reputation of civil rights work.

“If anyone should know that these are the words of bigotry, anti-Semitism and prejudice, it’s him,” Hier said. “I know he apologized, but I would say this … during his years as a leader of the national civil rights movement, if anyone would utter remarks like this about African-Americans his voice would be the first to rise in indignation.”

What? Is the Rabbi suggesting that there are double ethical and moral standards in 21st century American politics? Who would ever THINK that American political and/or group leaders would demand others behave in a way they don’t themselves?

Will we see a 2008 Allen-Young third party Presidential ticket?

SOME OTHER VIEWS (These are excerpts so please read entire linked posts):

QandO: “Great spokesman there, Wal-Mart. Yeow. Well, at least for once it isn’t “whitey”.”

Global Clashes: “Andrew Young should know better. His experience should have taught him that identity politics based on negativity and on prejudice never leads to progress or to self-reliance.”

Wonkette:

Clearly the best American UN rep ever. The Birchers and neo-cons think some tantrum-prone mustachioed pussy like Bolton’s gonna destroy World Government? Clearly, they shoulda just stuck with Andrew Young — did he get all Do the Right Thing every time he addressed the assembly? “Every single one of you guys rips off the black man every chance you get. Just for that, I’m vetoing this Security Council resolution. Didn’t even read it. {[Screw] you, Luxembourg.�

Home of the Mandinmores:

I am going to be a devil’s advocate here and defend everyone involved in this saga. For starters I think Mr. Young has a point. Throughout Urban centers in this country or mainly Poor black neighborhoods, there are plenty of small Liquor stores filling the role of grocery stores as well. Everyone of them I have been to in Detroit (the few times I did), the prices are outrageously high and the goods are of sub par quality. These establishments made the most of their money selling liquor, Tobacco products and lottery tickets. They gouge residents of predominantly poor black neighborhoods who don’t have access to reliable transportation to shop at upscale suburban stores. The grocery products they offer…did I mention sub par? The milk is usually old, the meat, well I won’t touch it and don’t get me started on the fruits.

However, I will not necessarily heap all the blame on the owners of these establishments. The risk of operating in these neighborhoods is enormous. Insurance premiums in Detroit are off the chart and this is true of most large cities in the United States. The owners of these stores have to factor that in their business decisions. I am not saying they should provide sub par service because of these factors, I am just saying there is a need and they service that need at their own risk. Plus if black folk will start opening up business to cater to the folks living in these neighborhoods, the people Mr. Young is calling out will not be there. Instead of pushing Walmart’s agenda, He could have organize some of his millionaire friends and have them open up grocery stores in under served urban areas.

Ace of Spades:

You know, there’s an elephant in the room, and no one wants to talk about. The media is forever hectoring white people to not be racist. Fine– it’s a good message, and furthermore, 30 years of the anti-racist drumbeat has had positive effects. It’s now socially impermissible to make overtly racist remarks. Some still think them, of course, but progress is progress.

But the media is less inclined to lecture the black community, which, let’s not mince words about this, is extremely, extremely antisemitic….Andrew Young is getting good at resigning over shameful remarks. It’s a wonder Wal*Mart hired this idiot.

Flopping Aces:

You think the coverage he is getting compares to the coverage Mel Gibson received? Not even close. He said pretty much the same things as Mr. Young did, stone cold sober, but barely a peep is coming out of the major networks. No bias here.

Andrew Young is following in the racist footsteps of Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and pretty much the whole NAAPC organization when he made these comments. They should surprise no one.

Outside The Beltway:

I’d argue, however, that Young is pretty much a marginal figure in contemporary American politics with no real history of racist comments or actions, albeit one with some influence in the African-American community; comparing him to Cynthia McKinney or Trent Lott, who have extensive, documented histories of racist and otherwise questionable actions in public office seems a bit extreme.

Indeed, the fact that Young was–until the incident–working on behalf of a group supporting Wal-Mart’s efforts to invest in inner-city communities would seem to make him an opportune target for those on the left.

Steve Gilliard: “Andy Young was a good corporate puppet for Slave Mart until he went a comment too far.”

After Magritte: “Why don’t you and George Allen go see the new Mel Gibson movie together? At least Andrew Young was decent enough to resign. Mr. Allen???”

Shakespeare’s Sister: “What airborne agent or waterborne pathogen or conjunction of celestial objects is responsible for this rash of public figures saying remarkably stupid things which they have to disavow ten seconds later?”

Impressions:

What a loser! He had been Wal-Mart’s spokesman since February but he shot himself in the foot and had to bow out. He even embarrassed Wal-Mart, and that’s hard to do. This is especially timely because the Chicago City Council just passed an ordinance requiring Wal-Mart to pay decent wages and benefits in Chicago. I appears that Richie Daley will veto the ordinance and the margin is not veto-proof since Daley only needs to change two minds.

Demogogue is as impressed as TMV is by Young’s profuse apology:

So I guess it will “work” to make hateful, stereotypical comments about Jews, Koreans and Arabs in Atlanta — but just not in New York or L.A. So sayeth a “civil rights” leader.

Captain Ed Morrissey has a must read post and here’s a tiny bit of it:

[In a certain respect], Young told the truth. The romantic view of mom-and-pop small-business retail might apply in places like Solvang and Belmont Shore, but in the inner city it represents a critical loss of buying power and employment. Their displacement by a retailer like Wal-Mart, a provider of low prices and much-needed employment, hardly seems like a disaster for communities in these economic straits.

However, rather than explain it in economic terms, Young gave vent to his inner bigot and trotted out a veritable cornucopia of paranoia. Unlike Mel Gibson, whose drunken state could arguably have created an irrational mental state (or he could just be an anti-Semite), Young has no such excuse. Not only was Young sober, but the statements came in a newspaper interview, when Young knew his statements would go on record. Nor does his apology quite wash; he implies that anti-Semitism and anti-Asian bigotry is rational and understandable in Atlanta, if not in Los Angeles or New York. Atlantans might take offense at that suggestion — well, perhaps most Atlantans, excepting the McKinney family.