On November 10, 2019, Ambassador Andrew Young attended St Joseph AME Church in Durham, North Carolina to help launch the “Andrew Young Alpha Phi Alpha Social Justice Initiative”. The initiative is coordinated by the National Chaplain of Alpha Phi Alpha, Rev. Jay Augustine who also is pastor of St. Joseph, Durham. Mrs. Starr Battle, 3rd Vice President of the Connectional Lay Organization and a resident of nearby Raleigh conducted the interview on TCR’s behalf.
Ambassador Young, thank you for allowing this opportunity to The Christian Recorder, the oldest periodical published by African Americans in the US.
TCR: In an interview you gave almost 60 years ago, you stated that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a “conscience attack” wherein he came back after researching various resources about the War in Vietnam and he finally stated that “the bombs you drop on Vietnam will explode at home.” You said he was talking about inflation, unemployment, and the problems in cities. You seem to agree with this statement. Do these residual effects of various wars still ring true being that we are still in conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, and in this interesting quarry with Syria?
AY: Jimmy Carter discussed China and the US and stated that China has not had a war since 1979. Billions are spent on war. President Bush was quoted saying trillions have been spent on war in the Middle East and around the world. It sounds reasonable that we could have used that money to the development of infrastructure. I grew up in New Orleans and the infrastructure of the River which occurred in 1956 has not been addressed and remains the same today. That is problematic.
TCR: Do you believe that individuals are still having conscience attacks? If so, in what way? Are they moving in a proactive way in social action and justice reforms?
AY: Usually, doing election time, people “wake up.” Typically, citizens are sleep to a revolution and are in denial. It’s more like $364 billion. Well, if we spent $100 billion in prevention, we have money to spend on education and we will be able to relieve students of the burden of debt. I think that the biggest handicap on this economy is that students are bound by their enslaved by debt so they can’t think. I mean, when I came out of college, I was broke but I could see myself as owning a house because I didn’t have any debt and my parents co-signed. I got a house but students can’t do that now.
TCR: You stated that your counterparts, Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young believed that Lyndon B. Johnson was the best thing that the black community ever had and the support of his war was needed to support civil rights. This action caused conflict with the movement because some thought that the movement would be halted until after the war was ended wherein others thought that the only way to end the war was to consolidate the political base in the South and in the northern cities to elect politicians who were more peaceful. With the current administration, what is the state of civil rights for African Americans and minorities and what does the community need to do regarding supporting politicians?
AY: No question about it, Lyndon B. Johnson was the best thing for the black community at the time. There was no aid for cities (for civil rights), North or South. They were saying that the difference in the South was that we didn’t wait for the government to give us money. We generated wealth on Wall Street and we kind of made the system work for us, including the political system. After Nixon and Ford, we elected Jimmy Carter, Clinton, and Obama. That was the Southern control of the Democratic Party.
The Hispanic population made more money last year than the black population. So, keeping them with us will be more and more of a problem. That’s the reason I think we have to work on the Indian minority (those coming from India). Keeping them in the liberal camp is a problem. I think we do better relating to the gay community because they have suffered and you can’t get elected in Atlanta if you don’t have the support of the gay community. So, where we are now is not so much black and white. It’s pulling together enough of the oppressed people of the world and people of goodwill and conscious to create a majority. Now, that’s increasingly difficult. I had black people in Atlanta who would not vote for Hillary because of some kind of unisex toilet bill that was up here in North Carolina. I said every toilet you ever been in has been unisex because ain’t but one sex in there. You don’t go into the toilet with anybody. Therefore, we must join with other races to be able to stand a chance. Utilize women and join with Hispanics and other minorities to strengthen the dynamics.
TCR: What is the state of our civil rights movement now, in the light of current administration?
AY: It never depended on the administration. Kennedy did not understand the South, but we got him to introduce the civil rights bill before he died. Lyndon Johnson understood the South. Lyndon Johnson was a poor white boy and he understood that the problem of the South was not black and white, it was rich and poor, and the Great Society was an attempt to help all the South keep up.
TCR: Does capitalism needed more of a conscience and move to protect people’s economic rights? How can that be done in our current environment?
AY: Capitalism really needs good sense. I am a capitalist. I think almost everything we did in Atlanta was accomplished with Wall Street money. Maynard Jackson was a graduate of NC Central University Law School. We wanted to build a new airport in 1973. A couple of young black financers from Wall Street, who were in our age group, came and said we can show you how to build an airport without going to/waiting on Washington. We borrowed $400 million and started that airport in 1979. We opened it in 1981 and I became mayor in 1981.
I went back to Wall Street and got $300 million more to build the international terminal and the third and fourth runways. People thought we were crazy and in particular thought I was crazy because they hired a consultant to do a feasibility study that said we didn’t need an international terminal. Nobody wanted it. Well, nobody in the US wanted it but I went to Germany, Japan, Holland, and Switzerland and invited their airlines to fly into Atlanta before they finished the feasibility study. We had four international airlines flying in. Delta and Eastern were not ready to fly out but once they realized all of the money that was coming in, we now have the fourth international terminal that we are building on now. What was a little airline, smaller than Raleigh/Durham airport that I came into even three years ago, is now the busiest and biggest airport in the world. They handle 125 flights every hour. It grosses $50 billion a year and employs a million people. In terms of the investment that’s coming into the city because of the airport, it was about a million people in Atlanta when Maynard became mayor and I was in Congress. We now have 6.5 million.
We still have problems and poverty. We are in charge of it and we are doing the best we can. Our problems now are problems of success. There was a time where the smartest people coming out of school had to be teachers. Now, there are so many job opportunities for people that they don’t want to be teachers anymore. So, our schools are in crisis. Then-President Bush took money away from Title 1, which was aid for the disadvantaged that Lyndon Johnson put into the educational system. Bush changed that, calling it No Child Left Behind. What he actually did was took the money from the schools and gave it to a testing firm that’s on Wall Street where there is not a single teacher on the Board. He robbed the poor and gave the money to the rich. Because he smiled, was nice, and got along with everybody, we don’t realize what damage that did to our community.
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Source: The Christian Recorder