AILSA CHANG, HOST:
In cities across the U.S., calls to take down Confederate monuments are growing louder ever since the deadly events in Charlottesville. One of the most dramatic monuments to the Confederacy is called Stone Mountain. It's in Georgia. It's sort of a Confederate Mt. Rushmore. It shows Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis, all on horseback, carved into a mountainside.
Andrew Young is not joining calls to remove the Stone Mountain monument. He was on the frontlines of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and was with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. the day he was assassinated.
ANDREW YOUNG: That is a tremendous carving, and I don't want to see that destroyed. I don't care who it is.
CHANG: Young went on to serve as a congressman from Georgia and a mayor of Atlanta.
YOUNG: This is a total distraction that is undercutting most of the progress we made. We made progress in the civil rights movement as 12, 13 percent of the population at most. We couldn't have made any change with that. In order to make change, we had to build a majority of at least 60 percent. We could build a majority around lunch counters. We could build a majority around jobs.
CHANG: I think it might be surprising to a lot of people to hear a civil rights activist, such as yourself, say that you don't think these Confederate monuments should be taken down. I mean, a lot of Black Lives Matter activists would probably disagree with you.
YOUNG: But I'm saying, these are kids who grew up free. And they don't realize what's still enslaves them, and it's not those monuments.
CHANG: So am I understanding you correctly? Are you saying that these monuments should not come down, period? Or are you saying that we shouldn't waste time talking about it because there are far larger issues to be thinking about?
YOUNG: Well, I'll tell you what. What worries me is that this country will turn to the right so that it will be taking down Martin Luther King's statue next, when the racist majority takes over. And I'm saying that a minority cannot be provoking a racist majority that is still under-employed, under-educated and dying faster than we are, that the issue is life and death, not some stupid monuments.
CHANG: What should President Trump do to ease racial divisions in this country?
YOUNG: I don't think President Trump is prepared to deal with these issues.
CHANG: You don't think so?
YOUNG: Because he has not dealt with them, himself. I mean, he did not grow up in a place like President Carter, President Lyndon Johnson, President Clinton grew up in the South. Those are the issues that they dealt with.
CHANG: So you would leave Stone Mountain as it is.
YOUNG: I would only consider adding to it a freedom bell because Martin Luther King, in his speech, said, let freedom ring from Stone Mountain in Georgia. He named that specifically.
CHANG: Andrew Young is the former mayor of Atlanta, a former congressman in Georgia and the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Thank you very much for joining us.
YOUNG: Thank you very much.
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