Friday, August 18, 2006

From the New York Times:

- Civil rights leader Andrew Young resigned as chairman of a group intended to boost Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s (WMT.N) image after he made remarks to a newspaper disparaging Jewish, Arab and Korean shop owners.

Young told the Los Angeles Sentinel, 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,'' The New York Times said.

In a statement posted on the Working Families for Wal-Mart Web site on Thursday, Young apologized for his remarks and asked for forgiveness from those who he offended.

``I recently made some comments about former store owners in my neighborhood that were completely and utterly inappropriate,'' the statement said. ``Those comments run contrary to everything I have dedicated my life to.''

I wonder if Young's comments might resonate with some African Americans since he managed to exploit that age-old tension between immigrant store owners and black neighborhoods, a tension that still hasn't dissolved since the LA Riots and that still needs to be addressed. It's just terribly misguided that Young has shilled Wal- Mart as the answer.

Wal-Mart may crush Arab, Jewish, and Korean business owners, but how do they help black business owners? Sure, they prevent immigrants from lining their pockets. Instead, the profits go straight to the Waltons, who rank among America's top 10 richest people. And this is a family not exactly known for promoting livable wages, civil rights, and any kind of health-care for the working class.

Overall, it's disappointing that Andrew Young, someone who has spent decades fighting for equal rights, has made such sweeping bigoted remarks. He truly captured a range of ethnic groups. He could have just kept it to the Koreans. But he had to rope in the Arabs and the Jews. Unlike Mel, it won't be just the synagogue that he'll be visiting to make ammends.


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