In today's Washington Post, Manhattan Institute fellow John McWhorter offers an alternative view of the controversy prompted by Andrew Young's recent statement about the ownership of mom—and—pop stores in black urban areas. 'In Defense of Andrew Young' begins:
Andrew Young unwittingly ended his brief tenure as Wal—Mart's ambassador to U.S. cities this month with his remarks about the nation's urban mom and pop shops:
"Those are the people who have been overcharging us —— selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables," he told the Los Angeles Sentinel, an African American weekly. "First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it's Arabs," he added. "Very few black folks own these stores."
Young was hammered so quickly in the national media —— the Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page even suggested that he qualified for a Mel Gibson Sensitivity Prize —— that he immediately stepped down from Wal—Mart and issued mea culpas to the New York Times, CNN and the Atlanta—Journal Constitution.
But he apologized too soon. The controversy surrounding his comments —— coming on the heels of Gibsongate, Sen. George Allen's "macaca" fiasco and now the news that the "Survivor" television show will pit different ethnic groups against one another —— only reveals that the civil rights revolution Young once helped lead has taken a detour. Today, when it comes to serious racial issues, political theater has replaced civic engagement.
Were it only 'racial issues' where 'political theater has replaced civic engagement.'
McWhorter argues that Mr. Young was doing no more than addressing a problem common in black inner—city communities. 'Too many poor blacks have easy access only to corner stores where merchandise is, in fact, stale, bad and wilted.' The statement regarding the historical ethnicity of store owners is essentially factual but nevertheless a violation of today's speech codes. McWhorter provides clarifying insight into the perpetuation of racial animosity through the dishonest and inflammatory pillory of those uttering statements not intentionally racist. The court of Wal—Mart—shopping public opinion may not find Mr. Young innocent, but his defense has argued an excellent case.
Dennis Sevakis 08 27 06