ATLANTA - A civil rights leader says there are more important causes than taking down Confederate statues.
Former Atlanta Mayor and UN Ambassador Andrew Young said fighting to have the Georgia Confederate flag replaced may have been a mistake.
“I think it’s too costly to refight the Civil War,” Young said Wednesday at a news conference in which he and fellow civil rights icon C.T. Vivian endorsed Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell to succeed Kasim Reed as the city’s next mayor.
Young said civil rights leaders should have spent more time fighting for issues such as education and housing.
The Georgia flag became an issue in 1992, just before the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta when officials did not want the state to be seen as a haven for racism.
"We made a mistake here over fighting over the Confederate flag here in Georgia," Young said.
He said the flag fight cost the state $25 billion in jobs and economic impact.
He said flags and statues are just symbols.
"So I'm always interested in substance over symbols and if the truth be known, we've had as much glory and agony under the United States flag," Young said.
- If you've gotten a robocall about a free cruise, you could get up to $900
- Candidate for governor calls for removal of Stone Mountain carving
- Obama's Charlottesville tweet is now the most-liked tweet ever
The civil rights leader was peppered with questions about the deadly violence in Charlottesville last weekend. He had a message on how to win the fight against Neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
"Their white supremacy is their sickness. You don't get mad, get smart. Never get angry at sick people because you catch their sickness," Young said.&
Young said he wasn't surprised by President Donald Trump's recent comments that the alt-right and alt-left are equally at fault for recent violence.
He said only two presidents have understood civil rights.
"We have never had leadership from the White House in any presidency, except Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson," he said.
Young said non-violent protests are what changed this country and can change it again.
"We have had a non-violent struggle, as Martin Luther King said, to redeem the soul of America from the triple evils: race, poverty and war.
Young said there's a reason Atlanta hasn't seen the type of violence seen in other parts of the United States. He said there's truth to the old adage, "Atlanta is the city too busy to hate."
"You go to any job in the city or building at any time and you will see black and white on any job in the city," he said. "That is the tradition that has thrived here when it's been threatened everywhere else in the world."
© 2018 Cox Media Group.