Moving Albany past racial tension â" advice from a Civil Rights icon

Fox 31's Romney Smith interviewing Andrew Young / Romney Smith

During the Civil Rights era the South was the hot bed of racial tension, and many of them still linger in Southwest Georgia today. Fox 31's Romney Smith recently had the opportunity to sit down with Civil Rights icon Andrew Young to get his thoughts on how we can work to move past our racial issues.

"Albany. Southwest Georgia. We still have racial tension. In your opinion, what should we be doing as a community to keep moving forward and build upon what you did back in the Civil Rights era?" Smith asks. Young replies "I think just having you on the air and us being able to talk openly about the racial tensions".

Young went on to say that being able to have an open and honest conversation about racial tensions is important. If we don't acknowledge the issues lingering from the past, we can't work on them. However he adds before we come to the table to work out our racial issues, we must first examine ourselves.

"Dr. King used to say that we can't blame people for being prejudiced, because if we had been born white we would probably be prejudiced too, and we still have a lot of prejudice within the black community" says Young.

He says knowing yourself and how you developed certain racial tensions can help you take steps to overcome them.

Young recalled a story of race relations when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was in an Albany jail. "When Dr. King was in jail there was a great big burly sergeant who was really quite nasty to me when I first went into the jail to see Dr. King". Young says after greeting the officer and hearing a reply that included a racial slur the first few days, the guard finally began to open up a little. After two weeks the sergeant developed a respect for his patience, persistence, and manner. Young ran into him decades later while speaking in Maine. "He had paid money to come hear me speak. And he said 'You don't remember me do you?', and I said 'No, where did we meet?'. He said "I'm Sergeant Hamilton from Albany. I was the one that was in jail", and I said "Well what are you doing now?". He said 'I got tired of that down there and I got a job up here in security, and he said I lost about 75 pounds and I have a new life and he said it's much better'. He said 'Getting to know you kind of helped me get over that'."

Young believes if we open ourselves up to truly getting to know someone different, we open ourselves up to develop an understanding, respect, and appreciation of differences that will enable us to move forward together. "We are able to work together and resolve these tensions and still be forgiving and loving" says Young.