Aug 21, 201710:26 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
The Monuments: Wisdom From Andrew Young
In a week filled with nauseating rhetoric from all sides of the spectrum came a sudden gush of fresh air. This should be required reading for the world.
“Inside Politics,” a blog for “My AJC” – The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s website, featured this article reported by veteran journalist Jim Galloway.
For those whose boat might have been lost at sea, Andrew Young, who is black, is a native of New Orleans. Much of his adult career has been in Atlanta, where he was an early Civil Right activist and became the city’s mayor. He also served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
This article tells about a recent event Young attended to endorse Ceasar Mitchell, the city council president who is a candidate for mayor. (PLEASE EVERYONE IF YOU ONLY READ ONE ARTICLE ALL WEEK MAKE IT THIS.)
We pick up the conversation as it switches to Charlottesville:
“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 … if (he) 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.
“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 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 were 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 had to look in the window on Saturdays, and watch all these folks [shout] “Hail, Hitler!”
“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 minds. 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.”
May all Mayors, present and future, have as much wisdom.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s book, “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2013), is available at local bookstores and at book web sites.
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 11:30 P.M. WYES-TV, CH. 12.