Andrew Young: Don’t blame the Klan or ‘uneducated white people’

If you watched NBC’s “Meet The Press” this morning, you saw former Atlanta mayor and U.N. ambassador Andrew Young address President Donald Trump’s self-made crisis over race and symbolism:

But if you relied on the video alone, you missed much of what Young said. Some 20 minutes before the Atlanta broadcast, MTP released a transcript of Young’s entire interview with Chuck Todd. Much of it was the 85-year-old Young's trademark, stream-of-consciousness style. Some of it was also a reflection of what the former U.N. ambassador said last week. The choice bits are below:

ANDREW YOUNG: Most of the issues that we’re dealing with now are related to poverty. But we still want to put everything in a racial context. The problem with the – and the reason I feel uncomfortable condemning the Klan types is – they are almost the poorest of the poor.

They are the forgotten Americans. And, um, they have been used and abused and neglected. Instead of giving them affordable health care, they give them black lung jobs, and they’re happy.

And that just doesn’t make sense in today’s world. And they see progress in the black community and on television and everywhere and they don’t share it. Now it’s not our fault. We’ve had a struggle from slavery.

But black – while they call themselves militants, but they’re not militants, they’re chicken – we never tried to take advantage of anybody else. Our job was not to put down white people. Our job was to lift everybody up together.  To come – so that we would learn to live together as brothers and sisters rather than perish together as fools. And that’s been the way I have done it. And everything – as Congress, at the UN, as mayor for eight years…

CHUCK TODD: It feels like we’re in a moment where we’re stuck and we’re stuck for a lot of reasons. And the, and the president – you have, some have even said, there’s a growing cabal of folks who believe he has already lost his moral authority to be a healer in all of this, to help with reconciliation in all of this because of what he did on Tuesday. You have a relationship with him, with the president, off and on.

YOUNG: Not really.

TODD: Fair enough. But you take his calls. If he calls, you take his calls. If he called you this week, what would you tell him. How would you tell him to fix this?

YOUNG: I don’t know what I would say because I think he’s caught in a trap. I don’t think there are any easy answers.

TODD: What’s the trap?

YOUNG: The trap is that he’s still politicking and thinking nationally, as a nationalist, and so is almost everybody else, including those who are trying to think back and blame it on the Civil War, which was hundreds of years ago. But the problem we have is that we’re not living in a nationalist environment. And that’s also his problem, personally, that he’s-- his business is all global. His business is in a global economy and he’s trying to the run the country from a national economy…

We now have 2,500 German companies in and around the city of Atlanta and they’re creating jobs. Tthey’re not taking jobs, taking jobs from Germany. But they’re hiring Americans, black and white and Hispanic and Asian….

And that’s a long way because I grew up in New Orleans in 1936. I was  -- the German American Bund and headquarters of the Nazi party was 50 yards from where I was born. So I’ve been dealing with Nazism and white supremacy since I was four years old. And my father said, “Look, that’s a sickness. You don’t ever let them get you upset and don’t ever get angry at sick people. You don’t get mad. You get smart. You don’t want – they cannot help you. But if you can help them, you ought to try.”

TODD: Let me go back to the president, though, because you said something interesting in May. You said, you don’t know yet how to help him because you don’t want to be used and, in January when you talked to him, you said you still had hope. Where are you now? You just said, you don’t know what, quite--you don’t know how he can get out of his trap. So what would you say to him now if he’s asking you for help?

YOUNG: I don’t know. But for instance, I think that he made a mistake in thinking that living was easy and it just is not. I mean, it’s hell to pass a bill. It’s hell to change an attitude. It’s hell. And almost any changes and -- I tell you what -- I admire his family. And I think that the thing that the president has to do is think of the American people, all of us, as his family. And I try to think of him as a potential leader, not only of the United States of America, but a leader of the free world and of the enslaved world.

And I know it’s crazy, but I saw [the recently fired White House strategist Steve] Bannon carrying a book going to Tehran some months ago at one of the press conferences and I’d read that book. Aand it’s a very accurate history of America’s relationship with Iran and I was just thrilled that he was reading that because I don’t think the president has had time to study foreign affairs.

But there was also--somebody said from the White House said that there is no military solution to North Korea. [Bannon again, in an interview last week] And whoever said that was wise and true, but there’s almost no military solution to any problem we face. But there are socio-economic solutions to every problem we face and there’s spiritual solutions.

The last time I really spent any time with President Trump was at Maya Angelou’s 80th birthday party, and he was at a gospel breakfast and everybody was singing and shouting and Maya Angelou probably knew that this was one of her last occasions so it was one of the most intense spiritual experiences that I have been in and I have been in a lot.

And I would just hope that he could remember that moment and remember the spiritual power that was in the room. And that’s the spiritual power that he needs to guide him, if he’s going to guide this nation and the world.

TODD: I want to ask you a couple of other sort of thorny topics that have come out of Charlottesville. One is this rise of a violent opposition to white supremacy, this so called Antifa movement we going to have a debate about it later in the show between somebody who advocates it, somebody who doesn’t. You come from the non-violence movement. That was successful. What do you say to those activists, two generations later who thinks violence is the right way to go?

YOUNG: No it’s more like five generations later and there were those who thought violence was the right way then. And they aren’t around and they weren’t killed by white people. They were killed by their own anger and frustration and their inability to turn down their emotions and turn on their mind.

From 4-years-old, I was always taught--my father use to tap me in the face to try to get me upset and if I swung back at him he would slap me upside my head. He said see, if you start getting emotional in a fight, you’re going to lose the fight. Don‘t get mad, get smart.

And that’s been serving--that served me well. And it served me walking in the midst of the Klan alone at night without a gun, without police protection, and the only reason I did it was because the only ones that were courageous enough to go there with me and who insisted that I go were women and children. The men, you know, hide behind militant solutions, but we have to keep our eyes on the prize - and the prize is not vengeance, not getting even, but the prize is redemption.

…The people we should look up to are the members of Mother Emanuel AME Church, who looked at this young man who shot nine of their members with forgiveness. And what they thought, you know, it didn’t mean bringing the flag down.

It meant giving that boy affordable health care - that the mental section-- the mental evaluations that should go with an affordable health care would do more to help these angry people, black and white, because the world is in a tremendous strain…

TODD:  Let me ask you finally on the issues of Confederate symbols on this debate. You’ve had to deal with it in Atlanta, Atlanta is going to deal with it. It may become a lightning rod issue in the Democratic primaries in the state of Georgia – Stone Mountain is already a target there. You're not someone who says take them all down. How would you try to resolve this dispute?

YOUNG: I remind people what it costs us to take down the Confederate flag. It cost us an election and that election cost us $14.9 billion and 70,000 health care jobs that we would have had in Georgia if we had not gotten to foolin’ with that flag. It costs us the Perimeter.

We had an outer perimeter where we have been collecting land and designing it and it was ready for construction. And the first thing the next governor did was sell all that land to his friends, and every time any Atlantans are caught in traffic or anyone tries to come through there, they need to remember that the flag put them there.

They got a Confederate flag, wave the Confederate flag and be happy, while you’re sitting in traffic. We have run this city since the business community in 1960 took out ads saying we are a city too busy to hate and that's been what brought us far…

And anything you want you can fight for it in Georgia, but you can't fight to keep somebody else down or if you want to make somebody else, you’re going to lose, and you’re going to be abused and you’re going to undo some of the gains we have made…

A lot of these people are as old as me that are now militant. I don’t know where they were back in the 50s’ and 60s’. And now they when it’s safe, when it’s cheap, they want to get over and get loud. They ought to quiet down and get to work. Register some voters, teach some children, treat their wives a little better, and, and learn what it means to be man in the 21st century.

TODD: And finally –

YOUNG: It doesn’t matter what color you are. That lesson goes for everybody and any color.

TODD: Let me ask you my final question. Mitt Romney wants the president to apologize for his remarks on Tuesday.  Do you think the president needs to do that?

YOUNG: I think the president needs to apologize for McConnell, for giving people black-lung jobs instead of affordable health care. I don't want to pick on the uneducated white people and blame them. We got a lot of educated powerful white people who abuse themselves, their own people and us more than any violence then the Klan has, can inflict on us.


Andrew Young opposes fight over Confederate statues

The Georgia law that protects Stone Mountain, other Confederate monuments

Opinion: Leave Confederacy’s old monuments alone

Confederate monuments coming down all over the South

Are teachers discussing Charlottesville, Confederate monuments in class? Should they be?

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. Atlanta. News. Now.

Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. Atlanta. News. Now.

With the largest team in the state, the AJC reports what’s really going on with your tax dollars and your elected officials. Subscribe today. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.

Your subscription to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.

About the Author

Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.