Andrew Young: Fights over Confederate symbolism are ‘a mistake’

Former U.N. ambassador and Atlanta mayor Andrew Young, in a 2016 file photo. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Fellow civil rights veterans Andrew Young and C.T. Vivian were at Paschal’s on Wednesday morning to endorse Ceasar Mitchell, the Atlanta City Council president, in this fall’s race for mayor.

Before we move away from that topic, let us note that Young, the former Atlanta mayor and United Nations ambassador, said he wanted to endorse Mitchell eight years ago – but his Howard University ties to Kasim Reed trumped that impulse.

The topic of Charlottesville quickly reared its head. A New York Times writer cited laws in some states, including this one, that prevent local communities from bringing down Confederate monuments. He asked Young and Vivian if they would endorse acts of civil disobedience that targeted the statues.

The reporter probably didn’t get the answer he expected from Young. Which, while he didn’t mention her by name, also might have been directed at state Rep. Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor who on Tuesday called for the massive carving of Confederate leaders to be scrubbed from Stone Mountain.

Said Young:

“I think it’s too costly to refight the Civil War. We have paid too great a price in trying to bring people together…

“I personally feel that we made a mistake in fighting over the Confederate flag here in Georgia. Or that that was an answer to the problem of the death of nine people – to take down the Confederate flag in South Carolina.”

Specifically, Young was speaking of Gov. Roy Barnes’ decision to pull down the 1956 state flag that prominently featured the Confederate battle emblem. The move was a primary reason he lost his bid for re-election, split the state Democratic party, and ushered in the current season of Republican rule. Said Young:

“It cost us $14.9 billion and 70,000 jobs that would have gone with the Affordable Care Act – which we probably would have had if we hadn’t been fighting over a flag…

“It cost of us the health of our city because we were prepared to build a Northern Arc, 65 miles away from the center of the city of Atlanta – an outer perimeter that would have been up and running now, if we had not been fighting over the flag.

“I am always interested in substance over symbols. If the truth be known, we’ve had as much agony – but also glory, under the United States flag. That flew over segregated America. It flew over slavery….”

Young also had some advice for the “antifa” movement. Boiled down: If you haven’t seen Nazis and Klansmen in the streets before, perhaps it’s because you haven’t been paying attention. We’ve been here before. Said Young:

“I grew up in New Orleans, La., 50 yards from the headquarters of the Nazi party. Before I went to kindergarten, I was having to look in the window on Saturdays, and watch all these folks [shout] “Heil, Hitler!”

“In 1936.

“And my daddy said, those are sick people. They’re white supremacists, and white supremacy is a sickness. You don’t get mad, you get smart. You never get angry with sick people, because you’ll catch their sickness. That’s what I worry about with our young people. Anger and this emotional militancy will give you ulcers, give you heart attacks.

“Don’t get mad, get smart. Your brain is the most important thing you have.”

Confrontation doesn’t change mind. Engagement does, Young said. During the press conference, Mitchell had said much the same thing:

“As a community, as a society, we’ve got to speak up and stand against racism, and bigotry, discrimination and oppression in any form, coming from anybody.

“With that being said, we’ve got to find a pathway to reconciliation.”

Afterwards, I approached Mitchell about the petition that had been presented to Mayor Kasim Reed, demanding the renaming of Confederate Avenue in the Grant Park neighborhood of Atlanta. Said Mitchell:

“It’s going to be a community conversation among people who live and own property on that street, and I’m willing to entertain that. I would just caution us, as a city – you can‘t replace an angry, evil mob with what we believe is a righteous mob.

“We have a complicated history as a country, in the South and certainly in Atlanta. There’s so much good and bad intertwined and tangled together. We need to be able to untangle the good and the bad, get rid of the bad, and make it part of the past.”

In other words, no slicing the baby in two.

Read more on the topic from my AJC colleague Leon Stafford.

RELATED

Abrams calls for removal of Confederate faces off Stone Mountain

Gwinnett judge suspended after posts about Confederate monuments

Petition calls for removal of Confederate flag in Kennesaw

Stacey Evans: An argument for ‘accurate’ history at Stone Mountain

Reader Comments 4

179 comments
mark nasca
mark nasca

I might be the only person in America who has stood in the room with a Tuskegee airman former mayor young and former governed Wallace. No matter what is right or wrong you must respect others. that means, all "we the people" its that simple. At some point someone has done work for you and you might not know who did it for you.

NATIVE_ATL
NATIVE_ATL

I wasn't prepared for my 16 yo daughter's or her friend's response to the Laser Show a couple of weeks ago.  And maybe JUST MAYBE she was making me live up to the words I've spoken to her.  It was why I wanted to go because it had been a few years and I wanted to see the new drones.  It was cute 


It's always been my opinion that we should replace the markers with the words of those that are represented.  The words of Lincoln is beneath his.  The statue of liberty had them added to the pedestal.  Martin L. King Jr has his words beneath most if not all of is.  


If their words are used, we would surely see where there hearts were (Thank you Ms. Tippens for making us research what the figure said and not just an opinion of what was done in history).  I always thought Stone Mountain's name should be Changed to "Confederate Memorial Park" on the condition the displayed all letters of succession from the state and and example of as Lee put it "A painful discipline" is displayed as well. 


But now.  I still believe in my view for Stone Mountain.  But having statues in public parks in a place of prominence makes me uncomfortable.  But I still say - leave the statues.  Place the words of the men and the letter of succession they represent.  I have no doubt the conferderate men served with valor and honor for their cause.   But their cause and attitudes were flawed. 

Linda Rogers
Linda Rogers

Mr. Young, call for this to stop. It is history. Good or bad but, it is American. history. Please call for PEACE AND HARMONY. WE ARE ALL ONE AMERICA WHITE, BLACK, BROWN. ETC.YOU HAVE THE VOICE. THANK YOU.

Stephen Alexander
Stephen Alexander

Why refight the Civil War? Do you want to change the outcome? The Civil war didn't start slavery - it ended slavery. Be glad that half a million union soldiers, mostly white men, gave their all (dead or wounded) to end slavery. Why not celebrate instead of rioting?

Michael Nigh
Michael Nigh

Simple if they riot they get to steal stuff, destroy stuff and cover their faces because they don't want to be identified as stupid crooks.

mountainlady56
mountainlady56

Thank you, Andrew Young, for being the voice of reason.  All this is part of history, as is Martin Luther King, Jr.  I'm white and I'm not proud of some of the things that were done in the past.  I, too, was afraid of the KKK and racist groups, when I was young, so I can identify with that.

However, removing the civil war statues, changing street names, etc., will not change history any more than if people wanted to remove statues and change street names that are dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am not racist and I don't condone racism.  All these riots need to be stopped before they get started.  This reminds me of the mid-60s, and the people of this country need to UNITE and love one another instead of promoting HATE.

A statue is just a statue and nobody's worshiping it, whether it's one of a black or white person from the past.  All these were paid for by taxpayer's money and to destroy them would be a sin and shame.  They've been there for years and we have much more pressing problems than worrying about the past.  We need to concentrate on the present and the future and make it a better world for our children and grandchildren.  I don't want to see them grow up in a world of hate, but one of love for your fellow man.

I pray to God above that all this will stop.

NATIVE_ATL
NATIVE_ATL

@mountainlady56 I agree but I think they statues should include their words regarding slavery and I feel Stone Mountain should be considered a museum and the name changed to Confederate (what ever) and the state should mandate that the words of the men and the spirit of why the succession was done should be displayed throughout the state's park.  


jambo_
jambo_

When is it timely or appropriate to have a discussion about racism in these United States of America?  These Confederate symbols are reflection of an era of Jim Crowism in this.  They celebrate leaders of the Confederate States in the rebellion against the United States.  We do like to have difficult discussions here in this country, we prefer to sweep them under the rug for a more opportune time.  We can then pat ourselves on the back and get on with the business of lecturing to other nations on their handling of Human Rights.  


The symbols are a celebration of White Supremacy, we are more comfortable calling it white racism.  When do we have the conversation?  Mr. Young had to resign as Ambassador to the United Nations, because a secret recording of a conversation he had discussing British racism was leaked by entities spying on him.

That was more than 30 years ago.


President Obama was politically boxed in from discussing racism, though his speech from Philadelphia during the campaign was one of the more mature presentations to come from a public figure.  We don't like to have difficult discussions.  We have learned from our history that we must have sometimes very difficult conversations, the is too high to remain silent.

mountainlady56
mountainlady56

@jambo_ How would you like it if whites insisted that Martin Luther King, Jr. statues be removed and streets named after him be changed to something else?  

Both are parts of history of the South, whether we like it or not!!

Removing these will only use money that could benefit our children and grandchildren in the future, and with the economical state of the country, not one cent needs to be wasted.

Elaine Perry Bailey
Elaine Perry Bailey

Thank you Mr Young. Pls don't stop trying to talk sense to the morons out there.

2013old
2013old

Well said, Mr. Young.  I bet that half the people, or may be more, on both sides of the marches don't know what they are fighting for; they don't know the history and why or how things happened.  Both sides, blacks and whites, need to move on and try to make it better for everyone in this blessed country.  I would just like for both arguing sides to find another country that gives them what they have here, no matter how bad they think they have it.  Go spend some time in Cuba; in Africa; in Venezuela; in Brazil; in North Korea.  I don't see any of them moving to those countries and leaving the "awful, racist, prejudiced, etc., etc." United States of America.  I came, legally, to this country when I was 14, became an American citizen, and I thank God and the people who founded this country for the opportunity and freedom it has given me and my family.  I would not have been able to have the life that I enjoy today in the country I left (and I don't say "my country" because my country today is the USA.)  I may be noted as a "hyphenated" person because I was born in another country, but I consider myself an US citizen and my loyalty will always be to this country.  And yes, I probably faced prejudiced, and bullying, and funny looks, but never paid attention to them - in fact I don't remember any of them.  I just went on studying and doing what I was supposed to do, what my parents expected of me, which was to study and work hard to be in a better position that they were.  And I know of many Africans, Asians, Europeans, who come, or are sent here by their parents, who live their lives the same way I did and do.  You find a lot of successful people, of all races, right here in Atlanta.  And that success is a result of the history of this country.  As each person is today the result of their past, this unique country is the result of its 200+ years of history.  Does it have problems, yes, but just like most individuals we keep trying to improve and learn from the past not erase it and condemn it every chance we get.  There is so much good to speak of and yet we only speak of every little mistake, word, action that we disagree with.  One suggestion is to come up with a program to teach our young people, including the Millennials, the history of each race in this country.  If you can, please search for the following article:  "Blacks' gains made without 'leaders'”, by Thomas Sowell.  Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Europeans, have made this country -- but they've made it because of the foundation in which it was established.  And again, I will forever be thankful for it.

ElderSage
ElderSage

Finally, statements from a smart, sane person. As a semi-redneck, it is my contention that most rednecks don't particularly have anything against blacks and Jews. They just, by god, don't want anybody telling them what they have to do. At least, that's pretty much the way I feel.

Ruby17
Ruby17

This couldn't be more true. Destroying symbols and focusing attention on inanimate objects isn't going to change people's perceptions one iota. What will is dialog and interaction. Until we start seeing each other as a whole none of this will mean a thing.

Margaret Craig
Margaret Craig

Really? Ummmm don't fight over symbols that promote slavery? Just know that today the symbol tomorrow you.

weetamoe
weetamoe

Niger Innis, leader of CORE, one of the oldest civil rights organizations in the US, has made statements similar to Andy Young's, and goes further to support many of Trump's assertions about the issue. Innis and his organization are of course non-persons to the AJC and no doubt would be the subjects of the eliminationist rhetoric common among Bookman's commenters---if they were even knowledgeable enough to know who they are.

QuestionMan
QuestionMan

@weetamoe CORE is an old organization, but isn't it largely commercialized, without a soul, and a pawn of those conservative groups which use it as their tool? For example, isn't Mr. Innis a favorite of Wayne LaPierre of the NRA? My research cast CORE in a very poor light.



Patricia-Robinson
Patricia-Robinson

Slavery was not the only cause for the Civil War.  There were actually 5 reasons.  Economical & social differences between the North and the South, States versus Federal Rights, Fight between slave and non-slave proponents, growth of the Abolition Movement and the Election of Abraham Lincoln.  We have African American statues of their history.  What purpose does it serve to remove all Confederate statues?  If the African Americans think they had it so bad, they should try looking up the history of the Native Americans.

zack
zack

@Patricia-Robinson  There was no issue between the north and south that would not have been resolved without a war, except slavery. Had there been no slavery, there would have been no civil war. It was a war fought over slavery. Get over it.

jambo_
jambo_

@Patricia-Robinson Ms. Robinson might want to spend a little more time reflecting on the History of the United States.  The your 5 issues are in a nutshell about slavery.  Your reference to Native Americans is about genocide but we have glorified that as a conquest of the West

Zachery Gaskins
Zachery Gaskins

In this thread we see throngs of white people agreeing with a black person who says not to start trouble.

penhurst
penhurst

Taking down statures of Robert E. Lee (who incidentally thought that slavery was a moral evil) does nothing to erase the past which has already happened and cannot be changed.  It is simply a concession to the "feel Good" culture that cannot seem to cope with reality.  Not to mention the cost to tax payers if some place like Stone Mountain has to be blasted off.

TMD1
TMD1

Andrew Young is so right here. Taking down these monuments does nothing but make people from the South mad about their roots being condemned. Let's all remember this when statues of others come down because some group did not like them. Turnabout is fair play.

cameo1
cameo1

I agree with Mr. Young.  We have wasted too much time over trivial matters.  How many people actually pay any attention to statues anywhere.  I do not.  There are more important issues at hand.  Such as caring for the homeless, educating our children and building better roads etc. the list goes on and on.  Our country is in crisis because of faulty leadership and straying away from God. Let's forgive and build bridges.  Let us work with our immigrant sisters and brothers and help those who benefit this country make a better life. Remember,  all blood is red and we all have blood.

Sandra Bowring
Sandra Bowring

Leave the statues and monuments alone. History is history.

Felicia S C Gooden
Felicia S C Gooden

The time has come for us all to work together to move humanity forward toward an age of abundance, cooperation, and love - leaving scarcity, competition, and hate behind! Leave the Red vs. Blue paradigm in the past, and #PaintTheWorldPurple! Let's build an #EgalitarianSociety! Www.theculturedscholar.com/vision

Pat Rick
Pat Rick

Meanwhile those proposing a war? Don't even know which bathroom to use while their opposition has a billion bullets...Iraq,the size of NJ,can't be contained with the US and 7 other countries...and their 'fighters' are incompetent, uneducated, strangers to the land... Even if only 1/10 of 1% of "known" owners of firearms,of which a substantial amount are proficient with them,took a stand....they would out number ALL military branches by 3000 to one....just saying... I think folks should see the real ramifications of war before being so hot for it.... And martial law??lol...we don't have enough law enforcement AND military COMBINED to have that effectively for a state as small as Massachusetts.... Especially when there are thousands of people who could kill from another zip code... Crazy talk... Just the Fringes of society on all sides getting way too much attention... Forget about election shenanigans from foreign operatives.... I bet they're behind the scenes on all this tripe

Chris Knowles
Chris Knowles

One of the few reasonable voices left that I have always respected. This is a man the black community should hold up as a hero, not worthless QBs or people inciting violence against police officers or hooded, masked snowflakes.

liduvus
liduvus

niceeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Richard_AJC
Richard_AJC

I agree with Andrew Young, I think the focus, should be on using the brain, building economic wealth in our community. 


Howard Smith
Howard Smith

Young is part of the establishment. He is an uncle Tom for it.

TheTrain
TheTrain

Just the kind of racial crap that needs to be shouted down. Mr. Young is a leader in the community and a good on.

ElderSage
ElderSage

Kind of similar to Hillary lost, get over it.

Larry Cornelius Sr.
Larry Cornelius Sr.

You want to focus on the deed- start by removing the symbols and then move to the actors of racism! It is a start of a movement of modern civil rights protest!

Larry Cornelius Sr.
Larry Cornelius Sr.

Come on Andrew, the Confederacy lost! No need to fight another war! Don't give them that impetus! The symbols have no.place in public- museum maybe but not displayed in the faces of the descendants of the victims of oppression and attrocities!

Larry Herron
Larry Herron

But that's what the democrats want so they can help Soros with his plan to eliminate the U.S. government and he can push his new world order that will pit all these governors and mayors into slavery only it will be social slavery not racial. He's just using them as his pawns. Good luck suckers

Bob Poole
Bob Poole

I listen to Andrew, he was actually around and had to deal with jim crow, and real hate, like with bull Connor and the dogs and firehoses.

Sheva Bree
Sheva Bree

Good. Tell the damn Nazis and White Supremacists to go home. They can visit their damn status once they are in museums.

Mike Newman
Mike Newman

Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it

Andree Baird
Andree Baird

Only uneducated people will destroy history.

Mike Pregon
Mike Pregon

We must tear down the statue of racist and KKK leader Robert Byrd democrat senator and mentor to Hillary Clinton

Laura Norcom
Laura Norcom

They can take down all our monuments and statues, but that still won't remove the hate from their hearts. They will have to stand before God with that. God teaches us love and forgiveness. Not racist hatred for one another.

Cathy Covington
Cathy Covington

Why does Germany make it a crime to salute Hitler memory? Think about it, just history right?

Trackbacks

  1. […] Former Atlanta Mayor and Ambassador Andrew Young said it’s too expensive to fight the civil war again. […]

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  2. […] » Andrew Young: Fights over monuments ‘a mistake’ […]

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  3. […] ​One particular flashpoint in that debate is the carving of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson that decorates the side of Stone Mountain in DeKalb County. Recently, Georgia State Representative and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams called for its removal, stating that it “remains a blight on our state and should be removed.” In stark contrast, civil rights icon and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young seemed disinterested in making an effort to remove such symbols, as “it is too costly to refight the Civil War.” […]

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  4. […] we must never forget the price that has already been paid on behalf of this issue. As Atlanta mayor Andrew Young described, “I think it’s too costly to refight the Civil War. We have paid too great a price in […]

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