- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2006

ATLANTA (AP) — Civil rights leader Andrew Young yesterday quit his job as head of a Wal-Mart advocacy group after saying Jews, Koreans and Arabs had “ripped off” the black community.

Mr. Young, a former Atlanta mayor and U.N. ambassador, said he decided to step down from Working Families for Wal-Mart to avoid becoming a “distraction” amid criticism for the remarks, seen as racially offensive, in the weekly Los Angeles Sentinel.

In an interview with the newspaper, Mr. Young was asked about whether he was concerned Wal-Mart causes smaller, mom-and-pop stores to close.

“Well, I think they should; they ran the ‘mom and pop’ stores out of my neighborhood,” the paper quoted Mr. Young as saying. “But, you see, those are the people who have been overcharging us, selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they’ve ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it’s Arabs; very few black people own these stores.”

Mr. Young apologized for the remarks, but said the Sentinel’s report had been misread and misinterpreted. He said he decided to end his involvement with the support group for the world’s largest retailer after he started getting calls about the story.

“Things that are matter of fact in Atlanta, in the New York and Los Angeles environment tend to be a lot more volatile,” said Mr. Young, once a close associate of Martin Luther King.

He also said working with the group “was also taking more of my time than I thought.”

Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley said the company supported Mr. Young’s decision to resign and that Mr. Young’s comments do not reflect Wal-Mart’s views.

“We are appalled by those comments,” Mr. Simley said. “We are also dismayed that they would come from someone who has worked so hard for so many years for equal rights in this country.”

Mr. Simley declined to comment on how the situation might affect Working Families for Wal-Mart.

The remarks surprised Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, who pointed to Mr. Young’s reputation for civil rights work.

“If anyone should know that these are the words of bigotry, anti-Semitism and prejudice, it’s him,” Rabbi Hier said. “I know he apologized, but I would say this: … During his years as a leader of the national civil rights movement, if anyone would utter remarks like this about African-Americans his voice would be the first to rise in indignation.”

Mr. Young came under fire from the civil rights community after his company, GoodWorks International, was hired by Working Families for Wal-Mart. Mr. Young’s company, which he has headed since 1997, works with corporations and governments to foster economic development in Africa and the Caribbean.

In an April letter to the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, Mr. Young said it was wrong for the church and others to blame Wal-Mart for world ills.

“I think we may have erred in not paying enough attention to the potentially positive role of business and the corporate multinational community in seeking solutions to the problems of the poor,” Mr. Young wrote at that time.

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