Chicago Sun-Times
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Andrew Young And Lazy Language

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Sorry. I haven't felt like wading through these posts lately.

But there's no escaping the madness when it comes to race. I was in Indy when the Andrew Young story broke. Actually, Young didn't say anything in his now infamous interview with the Los Angeles Sentinel that he didn't say in a recent editorial board meeting with the Chicago Sun-Times, except I don't remember him mentioning "Jews."

None of us batted an eye.

I was more appalled that someone of Young's stature--a civil rights leader, former Atlanta mayor and U.N. Ambassador-- had stooped to being a pitchman for Wal-Mart.

Still, I came across an interesting e-mail about Young's remarks.

The e-mail was written by a man who identified himself as "white man" who grew up in South Shore. He went to Mt. Carmel as did his sons. But he has also worked for several predominantly African-American municipalities. Because he sent the e-mail to my private mailbox, I'm not identifying him by name.

But I think what he had to say was right on the money:

"For a white guy, I think I have a pretty good pedigree to reflect on racial issues and stereotyping.
To an extent, what Andrew Young said is true...In the African-American inner-city community, the small Mom 'n Pop stores are almost invariably owned by Arabs, and before that by Koreans. When I drove my kids to Carmel, we passed what everybody called the "Arab grocery store" on Marquette Blvd. Just drive on Western from 55th to 79th and see who owns the liquor stores. My African-American friends and I all refer to the "Arab Liquor stores." We all do.

What Andrew Young was guilty of is laziness--stereotyping, in my view, is more about language laziness than a bad heart. Lazy language pushes us into cultural collisions because it relies on false syllogisms, which in turn lead to overreactions. Laziness begets laziness. For example, we all honestly know that south of Madison, the vast majority of the criminals, the bad people, the "element" are African-American. At the same time we also know t hat the vast majority of African-Americans are very good people. None of us takes the millisecond to articulate the distinction. Lazy language.

I firmly belileve that like Andrew Young, the vast majority of us are good-hearted people. We just need to be reminded of the dangers of lazy language as a mirror of lazy thoughts.

I, for one, thank this gentleman for such a gentle reminder.


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36 Comments

Andrew Young's comments and the rush to his defense is proof of the double standard in this country. Let a White person say anything that can be even vaguely interpreted as racist and he is villified by the public, fired from his job and never heard or seen again. What should be an effort for equality these past forty plus years is simply "pay back." Let's just call it like it is already no one is fooled.

MITCHELL COMMENT:

Andrew Young has resigned. What else should happen?

This guy's perspective seems right on the money to me too.

About the Young comment -- I have often wondered why successful black-owned corporations and individuals don't form coalitions/cartels to provide new black entrepreneurs business loans to open their own stores and shops in black neighborhoods? Greeks do this with restaurants, many ethnic groups have these kinds of organizations to help entrepreneurs open businesses. There are surely enough wealthy, successful black-owned corporations and private individuals to provide this kind of resource.

MITCHELL COMMENT:

We could start another blog about why what you are describing hasn't happened. Cheryle Jackson, the newly-appointed CEO of the Chicago Urban League has some ideas about how to make this happen.

Mary, I agree with your correspondent that a lot of these incidents are due to laziness in language and thought. But in this particular case, I dont feel that is the issue. Andrew Young is a veteran of the civil rights movement who at present is (was) working to bring employment opportunities to our under-served neighborhoods. His observation that the mom and pop storefronts in those neighborhoods overcharge and rip off our people is a fact. His recognition that those stores are primarily owned by Arabs who do not live in or reinvest in those neighborhoods is a fact. The notion that those same stores over generations have been owned and operated by Koreans and Jews in the same fashion as far as the use and abuse of black dollars is concerned is also a fact. He did not say all Jews, Koreans, and Arabs are conspiring to do blacks wrong. He pointed out the socio-economic reality going on in black neighborhoods not only here in Chicago but around the country and the world. I grew up in Roseland and can recall both the Grocery store and convenience store in our neighborhood being owned and run first by Jews, and currently by Arabs. They would use the Winos and Poor kids to deliver sales fliers door to door from 6:00am to 6:00pm. The kids got $20 for roughly 12 hours of work and the Winos got a bottle of the finest liquor $5.00 could buy. I challenge anyone who believes Andrew Young is wrong in what he says to drive through Roseland, Englewood, South Shore, West Town or any other predominantly black and economically disenfranchised neighborhood and make their own observations.

Mary, I also want to ask your opinion on the verdict of Michael Jackson who was found guilty of 2nd degree murder for stealing Haroon Paryani's Taxi and running him over 3 times with it. I recall a couple weeks ago the post here regarding black and white killers w/ respect to sentencing. This man (Jackson) now has the opportunity to get off with probation and a max of 20 years. This is just wrong. Several posters here felt the KIDS who attacked the boy in Oak Lawn should receive the death penalty for that. I am interested to see how they feel about Jackson skating on this most heinous crime. His lawyer claims he "never intended to hijack the car and kill someone as a result." How an unbiased jury could by that excuse is beyond words.

MITCHELL COMMENT:

Just one point. It may be true that most of the stores in the African-American community are owned by people who are not African-American, but it is stereotyping to say that all of these stores are ripping off black people. I've taken time to talk to some of these store owners and they aren't doing anything other than trying to make an honest living. Young erred when he such a sweeping condemnation.

Excuses, excuses, excuses ! Andrew Young said it, therefore, it is lazy language. If Trent Lott says it then its racism. As for Young being a frontman for Wal-Mart, again it depends on the situation. Hilary Clinton sat on the board of Wal-Mart when Bill was Governor of Arkansas and people like yourself haven't said a word. Bill was tight with Wal-Mart and Tyson, even to the point of using their lear jet. But that was okay. I see alot of hypocrisy and double-standards. Rev. Jackson lashed out at Lou Rawls for making a Budweiser commercial. Remember? But when his sons got a Bud distributorship that was okay. Double-standard.

Thank you for that column about Elvira Arellano saying she is like Rosa Park. I got angry when she made that statement, she is no Rosa Park. I was hoping some one in the media would pick up on this false statement, again thank you.

we're all guilty of that at one time or another. i don't believe Young meant any harm.

Once again blacks get a pass on racist stereotypical hurtful and derogatory remarks oh darn that Lazy languaged Andrew Young he did'nt mean it.

Lets keep this in mind when the next unfortunate "lazy languaged" white person has a slip of the tongue or a passionate ill worded statement.

African Americans hold everyone accountable for their actions and words (and according to you Mary racism whether real or perceived) unless they are African American then the double standard comes into play.

MITCHELL COMMENT:

Andrew Young apologized and resigned from his position with Wal-Mart. What else should have happened?

HELLO MARY,FOR A PERIOD OF FIFTEEN YEARS I WAS IN OUTSIDE SALES FOR A FORTUNE FIFTY SALES ORGANIZATION.MY CLIENT BASE WAS ESSENTIALLY OF ARAB AND KOREAN DESCENT.THESE MERCHENTS WOULD ALWAY COMPLAIN ABOUT THE JEWS NOT LEAVING ANY MEAT ON THE BONES FOR THEM TO FEAST ON.WHAT MR YOUNG SAID IS TRUE.IT IS CERTAINLY NOT A FALLACY.WE TALK ABOUT THESE ISSUES AMONG OURSELVES ALL THE TIME.THIS GENTLEMEN SIMPLY HAD THE COURAGE TO SAY IT.

I couldn't agree with him more. This is especially important for those in the public eyes on a daily basis. Saying things and or words that may offend a certain class of people may result in a backlash when you may have not meant any harm, just chose the wrong words to express your position.

PROCEED WITH CAUTION!

Mary,

I hope in the near future you address the issue of the public school system. I attended Chicago Public School and my aunt's were teachers. I disagree with Rev. Meeks stand on public education.

The problem is not the lack of qualified teachers. It is where the school funding is being used. The schools in low to middle income areas have a lot of their funds being used to pay for free lunch and school security. The teachers are spending for too much time dealing with problem students instead of teaching students who want to learn.

I hope that Rev. Meeks and other church officials use those voice to get parents more involved in their childrens education. That includes preparing your children for school not with the lastest fashions but with the neccessary school supplies and attidude to success.

Great piece, except you forgot to mention the Chicago born and bred PR firm that dreamed up the idea of hiring Young -- Edelman PR. Edelman learned the hard way that this type of PR is like dynamite.

MITCHELL-ROSA PARKS

Mary,

In response to your article on Elvira Arellano's relation to Rosa Parks, I believe you have truly missed the significance of standing for a human and noble cause. As Rosa refused to follow a wrongful Jim Crow System, Mrs. Arellano also pairs the relationship to her community for being undocummented.

I sincerely doubt Mrs. Rosa Park's ancestors and other African Americans of the past would have considered twice not crossing the Mason-Dixon line for a better future. I don't think Rosa would have oppose it.

We should also remember that the meaning of being black erodes and fades through generations. Being Black in the 1800's, early 1900's and early 2000's is radically different.
Perhaps being Black was worse than being undocummented or perhaps they have a similar social parallel that we have today. Whatever that might be, Mrs. Arellano has undertaken this challenge on her own with faith and courage. The same courage that Jesus, Rosa Parks and Dolores Huerta once had.

Erick Flores

Come on, "Lazy Language". It still amazes me how excuses are made for blacks when they show their bigoted sides.

Look at the beating Mel Gibson took in the press for his Jewish remarks and compare that to the pass Andrew Young received.

At least Gibson can say he was drunk at the time.

I appreciate this article because it is very close to what I thnik about this situation.

It is true that the owners of the "corner stores" in predominately black neighborhoods are owned by "non-blacks", and most of these stores do overcharge and provide inferior products.......but it is the fault of the individuals that live in the neighborhoods and shop in the stores.

Yes, I know that many don't have transportation to get to "better neighborhoods" where the "superior" food products are available..... but if we stop shopping in these stores they will be forced to "get right" or "get out".

Those of us that have transportation can and should assist those that do not.....on a regualr basis. Black, White, Asian, Arab, Jewish it doesn't matter... the point is we have to stop accepting "inferior" services, products, schools and even people in our neighborhoods.

What Andrew Young said is true. Most of the grocers have forced blacks to pay a "poverty tax" for terrible food, even worse service. Jewel, Dominicks, none of them will come in our community. But once some of those areas experience gentrification (Bronzeville, West Side), they will come back then. Also when will you write something regarding the silent black alderman of Chicago who are witnesses to the waste and abuse but refuse to do anything? The poverty pimps are also to blame here.

If what Young says does not bother you, then don't expect whites to care when a white person says a negative comment about blacks(as rare as that is).

Awesome Blog Mary!!!!!!

Lazy language. Perhaps. But if a white Republican had said this, you'd want him crucified.

MITCHELL COMMENT:

How do you know the writer is not a Republican.?

I don't frequent stores on the south side.Besides the bad smell of meat the shop owners smoke like smoke stacks.They even get away with selling bootleg cds and Dvds.I wonder, why?I've often heard:"if you going to the Arab store pick me up some milk and check the date".

I think that 'lazy listening' is perhaps more important than 'lazy speech' when it comes to perceived racism.

MITCHELL COMMENT:

Andrew Young apologized and resigned from his position with Wal-Mart. What else should have happened?

Shouldn't he go to some sensitivity sessions and make the rounds to Arab and Jewish community leaders with his head low and tail between his legs and set up a fund or scholarship to help underpriveledged jews and arabs. Thats usually the minimum required of non black transgessors of lazy language.

Hopefully my sarcasm is blatant enough to be seen. I agree totally with you Mary nothing else should happen or be required of Andrew Young or Walmart. However that is not the way Activists and Preachers and Black media play it when the Lazy Language is spouted by non Blacks.

Lazy language...please. What Andrew Young said is on the money and I agree with him 100% percent. The majority of these stores are just exploiting black people and they do not provide anything positive in the community. These arab stores allow all types of crimes to be broken in and around their stores and say nothing because most times they are involved. I dont care if one of these stores are next door to me I will travel across town before spending my money with some of these racist arab store owners. This is not even close to being a double standard. Let these guys go to the north side and set up shop and start selling single cigars,cigarettes and cans of beers to your kids.

I recommend people who don't live in poor black communities take a trip to there and not only observe who owns local stores, but also the stores' general appearance, customer service provided and quality of goods. After such a trip, your input would become more valid in such a discussion.

SA Smith, Stop giving mary a hard time! You can't even spell your name correctly

The response from many white bloggers has been typical. They continually complain that if a white man had made the same remarks he would have been fired immediately. The point is that a person who makes immoral comments such as these shouldn't have to be fired. By acknowledging his folly and choosing on his own to resign, Young has chosen to be a leader at least in this regard.

If what Young says does not bother you, then don't expect whites to care when a white person says a negative comment about blacks(as rare as that is). Posted by Jerry.

That's funny Jerry. I mean I am in awe of you and your comedic skills. For you to say (and probably really believe) that RARELY do whites make negative comments about blacks. Man, that is SO funny - I am pissing in my pants. The truth JERRY -is that whites DON'T care when one of their own say negative things about blacks. Further, since WE already know you don't care - we (blacks that are IN THE KNOW) don't EXPECT you to care. This isn't new to us. So what are you really saying Jerry? That's right NOTHING. Move on. And take your show on the road. You are hilarious and could make a KILLING on the stand up comedy circuit. Whites RARELY make negative comments about blacks. That was a riot. STILL laughing.

I support Andrew Young and appriciate his service and efforts towards the advancement of all Americans. I don't understancd why his comments are deemed racist? How about it being fact? His statements are felt to be fact on every corner in all inner cities accoss America. No one in the African American community has a problem with his statements and we really are not concerned about who was offended. If these people don't like the truth then what are we to do to change thier problems with our disdain for the system we conform to everyday. I applaued Mr. Young for his courage to utilize his platform and state what his people are already know to be true. This is not racist. If we were racist we would not patronize and support these businesses. We would not eat at thier restuarants or buy thier products. We would boycott. NO not racist but realist. We only want equal access to small business loans and opportunities to open businesss in our communities as well. Cassius

Eric said:
Come on, "Lazy Language". It still amazes me how excuses are made for blacks when they show their bigoted sides.

Look at the beating Mel Gibson took in the press for his Jewish remarks and compare that to the pass Andrew Young received.

At least Gibson can say he was drunk at the time.

There is no excuse for what Andrew Young said, just as there is no excuse for what Mel Gibson said. Also, being drunk is not an excuse for Mel Gibson to say what he said. I've always been told that when one is drunk, one has a tendency to say what they really feel.

leonard wrote:
If what Young says does not bother you, then don't expect whites to care when a white person says a negative comment about blacks(as rare as that is).


How do you know it's rare for whites to make negative comments about blacks? It's not just about people being in the public eye. Many things can be said behind closed doors. It's about people in general. There are probably many whites who say negative things about blacks, just as there are probably many blacks who say negative things about whites. In either case, it's not right. Period.


Lazy language; what a unique concept! I remember a few years ago a baseball player named John Rocker was blackballed out of a major league career simply because he spoke the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about what it's like to ride the subway in New York City. Nothing he said was wrong, just not politically correct. I'll bet he wishes he had someone come to his rescue by using the "lazy language" defense. And certainly he isn't the only white person to be crucified for speaking his mind, even if it is the truth. But without double standards, where would we be today? These blogs are great Ms. Mitchell. Keep it up!

I do not know who owns the preponderance of grocery stores in the majority Black communities in urban areas, but simple statistics make it unlikely that Jews, Koreans, or Arabs have ever owned the majority of them. While there may be some Jews, Koreans and Arabs who own stores in black neighborhoos, my guess is that this has more to due with changing demographics: Blacks replaced Jews in many urban neighborhoos, but the businessmen continued to own those stores; Koreans and Arabs moved into those neighborhoods, purchasing small stores soon after their immigration. Why larger chains are not more present in these communities is unclear. Anecdotally, I remember that after the rioting after the first Bulls championship, the next day there were no grocery stores open on the west side between the loop and Oak Park. Incidents like this stick in the mind of business owners, a risk-averse group of people to start with.

Traveling through Chicago, it appears that many, possibly even the majority, of small businesses in the Black community are owned by Blacks. Many of these stores are service businesses with low initial capital requirements. If you drive east on North Ave. from Austin to Western, you can not travel even one block without seeing a hair salon or a nail salon. Sometimes there are even 2 or 3 per block, interspersed with numerous store-front churches. Were these black store owners prohibited from opening high quality small grocery stores instead of yet another hair salon, or does the amazing amount of salons simply reflect what the community values?

Andrew Young's sin wasn't pointing out that Black's haven't owned many of the food stores in their community. His sin was in scapegoating other minority groups, groups highly visible in the Black community, and tarring them with the charge of malicious business dealings over years of operation. It's evident that he spoke from his prejudice, and sad that his prejudices were so base and shallow and transparent.

Why do we have such a huge double standard in this country? The media will twist anything a white person says to make it look racist (Trent Lott) while making excuses for anything a black person says. Andrew Young and Ray Nagin are only the most recent. Could a white mayor of any city get away with wanting a "Vanilla City?".
Why must blacks be referred to as "African Americans?" Whites are not referred to as European Americans. Whites do not have a gazzillion organizations, beauty pagents,etc exclusively for whites like blacks do.
Minorities have numerous protections under the law that whites do not have.
Now lets talk about not being judged by the color of our skin...

MITCHELL COMMENT:

Victoria, what is it to you how blacks describe themselves. Why should you be offended that I want to describe myself as an African-American? As for whites not having a "gazzillion organizations" of course they do. Most of the organizations blacks can now join were once white-only, weren't they? There wouldn't be black organizations if blacks were welcome to join white sororities, fraternities, social clubls, country clubs, etc. Why is it so easy to erase this history?

Mary,
You ask what else can happen to young for his "Lazy L" ? Well, Why is it that when a white person makes simular comments, the black community has a laundry list of complaints.
Listen, Everyone goes off their personal experiences. Some may have been with particular groups and they become biased. It is what it is.
But don't start ripping on bigger companies as to why they don't go in to these neighberhoods because we all know why they don't. CRIME!!!
They'll get their product ripped off or destroyed. They'll get robbed.
I think the blog above says it all. Where are the wealthy black business people who can help foster the community to provide for themselves. Oh thats right...They got out of dodge as soon as they could because they couldn't stand it either. They get pressured by their own people calling them " Uncle Tom" if they become succesful. They see what goes on in these communities and THEY left!
What does that tell you !
We are all tired of double standards and the sooner we all figure out that we share this life with one another, the better we all will live. Instead, the black community supports loud mouths and criminals like Mearday and look what thats got us. Mearday was a criminal long before his infamous criminal activity that lead to his public outcry. Where are all the black leaders now that Mearday has landed in jail yet again. Taxpayers footed the bill for that bogus lawsiut, and we expect Black professionals to come back to the hood to help out ? I don't think so.

MITCHELL COMMENT:

Well, there's a Starbucks on Stony Island right in the heart of the 'hood and the business is booming. I'm also told that some of the other large businesses that have located in the 'hood are among the highest-grossing. So again, we are buying into stereotypes. Yes, there is too much crime in some black communities, but not all.

You people kill me with this, " If a white person said something like that black folks would want his head!"
When white folks have to deal with the type of services and treatment that African Americans have to deal with on a daily basis, all of their life because their skin is brown then you can make those statements.
You are so quick to say African Americans are always playing the race card. As soon as you white folks stop dealing the race cards , we will stop playing them!
You try living in a community where someone else can come to this country and be setup in business in your community and there was no opportunity for someone in that community to setup that business. How would you like to live in a community that is sold to the highest bidder and you know that you can't even bid? Why not ? Because you are not in the money circles.
Oppression is alive and well in the US, if you didn't know.

Mary Mitchell I love your work! Mr. Andrew Young said nothing that many members of a country have not possible thought or conversed out loud.However,the state of Black America is complex and steep in racism,and class.Today in 2006 many Black Americans still carry the psychological chains of slavery,not bondage such as our ancestors.Until we break these chains we will not fully own our communities.Diversity is never an excuse not to speak about bigotry.I also wonder why he was a spoke person in the first place for Wal Mart-now that is a sad case for discourse.

(MITCHELL COMMENT:

Andrew Young has resigned. What else should happen?)


In response to your comment:


YOU should retract your excusing Young's racism as "Lazy Language"
'

MITCHELL COMMENT:

Excuse me, but the lazy language came from an white bloggger who eloquently summed up the debate.

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This page contains a single entry by Mary Mitchell published on August 21, 2006 6:44 PM.

The Only One in the Room was the previous entry in this blog.

Arellano Is No Rosa Parks is the next entry in this blog.

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