Thursday, August 24, 2006

Defense for Andrew Young

I don’t know about you, but, I grew up in a neighborhood that, although it was not as bad as it has become since I’ve moved away, it still was not nearly as rosy as Wisteria Lane. Before we were “urban contemporary”, we were “the Northside” or “Southside”.

“Where you from?”
“Walnut Park.”

For the most part, these neighborhoods were beginning to integrate in the early to mid-sixties and most if not all of the neighborhood stores (we used to call them Confectionaries) were owned by someone, or someone’s parents who had freely immigrated from somewhere else. In my neighborhood there was Finnigers, whose owners were not surprisingly German, being that my area, Walnut Park, was a popular residential destination for Germans in the late 1800s. And, there was Union Market, whose proprietors were Jewish. As a child, I didn’t think very much about who the owners were. In the early sixties it was not uncommon to see Caucasians minding a store or running a business. Not since those days have I heard anybody’s mother tell them,

“Baby, run up to de corner store and get Mama a halfa stick ‘o butter for my pie.”


“Mr. Finniger, can I get fifty cent wortha boloney.”

Or, hogshead cheese, and a stale box of vanilla wafers, ten cent sodas, or the classic,

“Go get Uncle Petey five cigarettes from Union Market. Make that three. And, a coupla matches.”

And, it was only as I began to grow older, more perceptive and often having traveled or socialized to some of those previously mentioned neighborhoods that I, my friends and family would sometimes jokingly testify about regularly observing rodents in some of these fine establishments. It was a known fact, and perhaps sadly accepted, that in some of these local grocers that bread, out of date long before we learned what those colorful little twist ties were for, sat for weeks on the shelves until…well Hell, until somebody who didn’t have a car to go way across town to a supermarket, bought it.

Even now, as an adult, I am conscious when I step into neighborhood convenience stores or gas stations or beauty supply shops or Dunkin Donuts. It’s not just me. I know eyes follow my every move. I have been followed through isles. I have had change casually tossed on the counter to me. I have been overcharged. I have been ignored. I have been treated with disdain. I wouldn’t dare buy vegetables or bread. I don’t eat meat, but if I did, humph.

African-Americans are the poster children for racism. We can sniff it out like a bomb search dog. Racism is not the same thing as recognizing that the men who hijacked the airplanes on September 11th were of Arab descent. Racism is using that information to suggest that all Arabs are terrorists, and as a result, restrict the movements of every Arab, or detain as many Arabs as you can, or hate all Arabs and not let them learn to read, or go to school, or get a job, or live in your neighborhoods and eat at your lunch counters. The mistake Andrew Young made was that he was Andrew Young; civil rights icon, former Atlanta mayor, former U.S. Ambassador. Had he been Percy Washington in Chicago, no one would’ve blinked an eye. Did Andrew Young say he didn’t like Jews, Koreans or Arabs because of the color of their skin? Did he say something, or make an accusation that at some time or another was not true? And, while we understand that not all people from other places who find themselves earning a living in our neighborhoods are bad people, the truth is that we’ve all been in that grocery store with the stale bread and the wilted vegetables. That ain’t racism. That’s just the truth.

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At 6:49 AM , Blogger BLUE said...

because he had "worked" as a spokesman for Wal-Mart and because he owns a company whose success rests squarely on his good reputation among many groups of people, i don't think Young's comments were very savvy. it's not always that you don't have these quirks about you when you are in the limelight. we all do. but you succeed in this limelight when you find ways to not confirm who or what you don't like.

this is every person's planetary civil right: when you get to be a certain age, you stop this dance with the public. you have earned the right to say whatever the hell you want to say. he's grown enough now not to have to hide his truth ... whatever it costs him. other folks in power ain't that grown yet.


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