Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Friday, August 18, 2006

This Week in Race

Or as Wonkette likes to call it, "Racism Week," some clever individual has created a faux George Allen blog complete with graphs and psuedo-apology.

Additionally, Andrew Young, the guy who WalMart hired to improve its public relations image, as they try to build more big box stores in low-income urban neighborhoods, recently had quite the case of verbal diarrhea:

The civil rights leader Andrew Young, who was hired by Wal-Mart to improve its public image, resigned from that post last night after telling an African-American newspaper that Jewish, Arab and Korean shop owners had “ripped off” urban communities for years, “selling us stale bread, and bad meat and wilted vegetables.”

In the interview, published yesterday in The Los Angeles Sentinel, a weekly, Mr. Young said that Wal-Mart “should” displace mom-and-pop stores in urban neighborhoods.

“You see those are the people who have been overcharging us,” he said of the owners of the small stores, “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.”

Mr. Young, 74, a former mayor of Atlanta and a former United States representative to the United Nations, apologized for the comments and retracted them in an interview last night. Less than an hour later, he resigned as chairman of Working Families for Wal-Mart, a group created and financed by the company to trumpet its accomplishments.

Damn, I always thought you hired spinsters to improve shoddy images and to better relationships with people, not to reaffirm portrayals of you as an uncaring, racist behemoth that locks janitors in at night and discriminates against female employees. (And is being sued in the nation's largest ever class action suit.) What's kinda funny is this guy does PR work for a living and he fucked up in a print interview. I think that in many cases it's easier (and more understandable) to mess up on TV -- that blinking red light can be intimidating and it's live. But when you're just one on one with a reporter, or talking over the phone, you have much more of an opportunity to self-edit.

I guess Young's logic here is that while it's bad for minority mom-and-pop stores to profit off of African Americans, but better for an international corporation that is America's largest employer of the working poor, a company owned by a megarich white family in Arkansas to do so?!? 'Cause you know WalMart's produce is perfectly fresh and impeccable.

Anyway, his "apology" is also pretty hilarious:
“It’s against everything I ever thought in my life,” Mr. Young said. “It never should have been said. I was speaking in the context of Atlanta, and that does not work in New York or Los Angeles.”
Well, right. Because it's okay to localize your comments about greedy Jews, Koreans and Arabs to Atlanta because they've never had race riots there, unlike New York or Los Angeles. So obviously that makes your comment okay.

Responses from national leaders below:

His remarks drew forceful condemnation from Arab, Jewish and Asian leaders.

The national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham H. Foxman, called the comments “very hurtful.”

“The sad part,” he said, is that “even people of color and even minorities who suffered discrimination and prejudice are not immune from being bigoted and racist and even anti-Semitic.”. . .

Margaret Fung, executive director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said, “Andrew Young should know better than to resort to derogatory ethnic stereotypes about Korean storeowners in black neighborhoods.”

Khaled Lamada, former president of the Arab Muslim American Federation and currently director of outreach for the Muslim American Society, said that Mr. Young’s statements were “not fair” and that they “shame” the Muslim community.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said “these are stereotypical remarks that any leader of the civil rights movement should run away from rather than utter.”

Explaining his comments about Koreans, Jews and Arabs, Mr. Young said he was referring to the history of retail ownership in the neighborhood where he lives in southwestern Atlanta.

“Almost everyone who has come into my community has moved in, made money and moved out and moved up,” he said. “That process is still continuing.”

Well, okay. I guess that makes your words acceptable?!? What a non-apology, again. Plus the cherry on top is that this man not only used to be a civil rights leader, but also a US ambassador to the United Nations. Damn, watch him work those mad diplomacy skills!

Somehow I have the feeling that this won't help WalMart with their recent profit slump. But I'm sure that the folks over at WalMart Watch and Wake Up WalMart are thrilled.


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