Double Standards?

Former Atlanta mayor and U.N. ambassador Andrew Young has landed in hot water after making racist comments in an interview with a Los Angeles newspaper:

In an interview published in Thursday’s Los Angeles Sentinel, Young was asked to comment on whether he is concerned that Wal-Mart causes mom-and-pop stores to close.

“Well, I think they should; they ran the ‘mom and pop’ stores out of my neighborhood,” the Sentinel, a newspaper serving the African-American community, reported. “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.”

Both Frank Stephenson and Michael Munger suggest that the lack of outrage from the political left (when compared to that against George Allen for his “macaca” blunder this past week) is due to a double standard, whereby Democratic politicians get a “pass” for things that Republicans would not.

I’d argue, however, that Young is pretty much a marginal figure in contemporary American politics with no real history of racist comments or actions, albeit one with some influence in the African-American community; comparing him to Cynthia McKinney or Trent Lott, who have extensive, documented histories of racist and otherwise questionable actions in public office seems a bit extreme.

Indeed, the fact that Young was–until the incident–working on behalf of a group supporting Wal-Mart’s efforts to invest in inner-city communities would seem to make him an opportune target for those on the left.

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Chris Lawrence
About Chris Lawrence
Chris teaches political science at Middle Georgia State University in Macon, Georgia. He has a Ph.D. in political science (with concentrations in American politics and political methodology) from the University of Mississippi. He began writing for OTB in June 2006. Follow him on Twitter @lordsutch.


  1. Lets see. Marginal figure on the left, very clear cut racism in the statement. Not so marginal figure on the right, questionable whether racism was meant by the remark.

    I guess it all is where you set your standards at. Is racist comments okay if the person isn’t a major political player?

    I think Young isn’t the only left side figure who has put his foot in his mouth in this way (e.g. Biden and Hillary), but those who do it on the right seem to get a much bigger dose of trouble for it.

    Mel Gibbson catches a world of hurt, but Wallace can barely mention the anti-semitism to the Iranian head of state (no I’m not going to look up how to spell his name).

  2. I’d argue that while racist comments aren’t OK if they aren’t made by an important political actor, they are (by and large) irrelevant.

    Besides, Allen has more serious problems than his inability to name haircuts, like being about as electable as Mike Dukakis.

  3. Chris,

    Scroll down on the haircut issue. It appears there are two sets of photos going around. One from Webb which would call Allen’s tonsorial acumen into question and one not from Webb which would support Allen.

  4. Well, whether the dude’s haircut is really a mohawk or a mullet… either way, it’s not called a “macaca” or whatever Allen called it. So my point about Allen’s inability to name haircuts stands.