Shock: NPR Touts Civil Rights Activist Who Opposes Destroying Confederate Memorials

On Wednesday, NPR's Morning Edition surprisingly featured former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, who opposes the dismantling of Confederate memorials across the United States. Young, a close associate of Martin Luther King, contended that the controversy was "a total distraction that is undercutting most of the progress we made." Journalist Ailsa Chang zeroed in on the Confederate sculpture on Stone Mountain in Georgia and pointed out that "a lot of Black Lives Matter activists would probably disagree with you."

Chang first outlined that "one of the most dramatic monuments to the Confederacy is called Stone Mountain....It's sort of a Confederate Mount Rushmore. It shows Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis — all on horseback — carved into a mountainside." She continued by highlighting that her guest was "not joining calls to remove the Stone Mountain monument. He was on the frontlines of the civil rights movement in the 1960's, and was with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the day he was assassinated." Young, a former mayor of Atlanta, underlined, "That is a tremendous carving, and I don't want to see that destroyed. I don't care who it is."

The former ambassador continued with his "total distraction" label of the ongoing firestorm over Confederate landmarks. The NPR journalist replied, "I think it might be surprising to a lot of people to hear a civil rights activist, such as yourself, say that you don't think these Confederate monuments should be taken down. I mean, a lot of Black Lives Matter activists would probably disagree with you." The guest retorted, "These are kids who grew up free. And they don't realize what still enslaves them — and it's not those monuments."

Young soon added that he feared "that this country will turn to the right, so that it will be taking down Martin Luther King's statue next when the racist majority takes over. And I'm saying that a minority cannot be provoking a racist majority that is still underemployed, under-educated, and dying faster than we are — that the issue is life and death, not some stupid monuments."

Moments later, Chang ended the interview by asking, "So you would leave Stone Mountain as it is?" The former diplomat replied, "I would only consider adding to it a freedom bell; because Martin Luther King, in his speech, said, 'let freedom ring from Stone Mountain in Georgia.' He named that specifically." Young has endorsed such a project since at least October 2015, which put him at odds with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference — a civil rights organization he once helped lead as executive director.

The full transcript of the Andrew Young segment, which aired on the August 23, 2017 edition of NPR's Morning Edition:

AILSA CHANG: In cities across the U.S., calls to take down Confederate monuments are growing louder ever since the deadly events in Charlottesville. One of the most dramatic monuments to the Confederacy is called Stone Mountain. It's in Georgia. It's sort of a Confederate Mount Rushmore. It shows Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis — all on horseback — carved into a mountainside. Andrew Young is not joining calls to remove the Stone Mountain monument. He was on the frontlines of the civil rights movement in the 1960's, and was with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the day he was assassinated.

ANDREW YOUNG, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: That is a tremendous carving, and I don't want to see that destroyed. I don't care who it is.

CHANG: Young went on to serve as a congressman from Georgia and a mayor of Atlanta.

YOUNG: This is a total distraction that is undercutting most of the progress we made. We made progress in the civil rights movement as twelve, thirteen percent of the population at most. We couldn't have made any change with that. In order to make change, we had to build a majority of at least sixty percent. We could build a majority around lunch counters. We could build a majority around jobs.

CHANG: I think it might be surprising to a lot of people to hear a civil rights activist, such as yourself, say that you don't think these Confederate monuments should be taken down. I mean, a lot of Black Lives Matter activists would probably disagree with you—

YOUNG: But I'm saying, these are kids who grew up free. (laughs) And they don't realize what still enslaves them — and it's not those monuments.

CHANG: So am I understanding you correctly? Are you saying that these monuments should not come down, period; or are you saying that we shouldn't waste time talking about it because there are far larger issues to be thinking about?

YOUNG: Well, I'll tell you what: what worries me is that this country will turn to the right, so that it will be taking down Martin Luther King's statue next when the racist majority takes over. And I'm saying that a minority cannot be provoking a racist majority that is still underemployed, under-educated, and dying faster than we are — that the issue is life and death, not some stupid monuments.

CHANG: What should President Trump do to ease racial divisions in this country?

YOUNG: I don't think President Trump is prepared to deal with these issues—

CHANG: You don't think so?

YOUNG: Because he has not dealt with them himself. I mean, he did not grow up in a place — like, President [Jimmy] Carter, President Lyndon Johnson, President [Bill] Clinton grew up in the South. Those are the issues that they dealt with.

CHANG: So you would leave Stone Mountain as it is?

YOUNG: I would only consider adding to it a freedom bell; because Martin Luther King, in his speech, said, 'let freedom ring from Stone Mountain in Georgia.' He named that specifically.

CHANG: Andrew Young is the former mayor of Atlanta, a former congressman in Georgia, and the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Thank you very much for joining us.

YOUNG: Thank you very much.


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