Interview with Rev. Andrew Young


Rev. Andrew Young:

Well, basically we… we trained people to think rather than react, ah, and the women and children, see there really weren't many big, burly able-bodied men. They were mostly young boys, and… and ah, there was, there was… well, the odds were so out… out of matched? You know, I think if there had been any black man with a machine gun, then he might have done something, but blacks had no available arms, and here were people who were well-armed, and we always trained people that the one thing that the police could not deal with was non-violence. That they could deal with violence and that all you had to do was for one person to fire a shot, and that gave them an excuse to mow down hundreds of people. And we were very pragmatic and practical about it, and we explain violence in the kind of situation in which we lived, as suicidal. And that it required, I think the term that Bevel used to use, was a kind of revolutionary patience, ah, that you know, that you just didn't respond. Occasionally people would, you know, jump up and want to talk bad, and there were people who came back to the church and started talking about going to get their guns. You had to talk them down, ah and you had to talk them down by simply asking questions, "What kind of gun you got, .32, .38? You know, how's that going to hold up against the automatic rifles and the 12-gauge… you know 10-gauge shotguns that they've got? And how many have you got? There are at least 200 shotguns out there with buckshot in them. You ever see buckshot? You ever see what buckshot does to a deer?" You know, and most of them had. And you make people think about the specifics of violence, and then they realize how suicidal and nonsensical it is.** See. Ah, and um, you also kind of help them to understand what was really happening to them. See, Dr. King said you had to bring the violence in the system to the surface. Most folk there, in that march, had been abused and brutalized at some time or another by the police, ah, verbally if not physically, and the thing was you had to help them to see that we did this deliberately. See it's one thing to be brutalized by yourself on a dark night when nothing can be done about it, but when you're brutalized together on national television, something in the society is going to change. And you had to help them to think through ah, the fact that as Dr. King—"honor and suffering is redemptive," and you had to help them to see this honor and suffering as producing a larger good. And gradually people began to calm down, and the truth of it is, nobody really wanted to go fight anyway. I mean there were, in other situations, when people would really get bad, and we couldn't turn them… we couldn't physically restrain them, we'd say, "All right, go ahead. Help yourself. Go ahead and… and ah, you know, who are you going to kill first, you know? And what's going to happen when you kill that one?" See? "Where are you going to go after you've killed two or three white folk?" See. "You got an escape plan?" Say, "Where are you going to hide? Where are you going to get money to live? Are you ready to take on an underground terrorism movement?" And you know, once they realized they hadn't thought about even violence ah, and that what they were really doing was a kind of macho foolishness, ah, they'd calm down. But you… you see, we were convinced that violence was weakness, that violence wasn't strength, and that violence was the surest way to get a whole lot of people killed. Violence would not work as a method of social change in America. Violence by almost anybody was counter productive. Indeed, the violence of the Missi—of the Alabama State Troopers produced the very gains that we wanted.