And although his own neighborhood's small stores weren't owned by gougers selling inferior goods, other urban dwellers have faced that problem, Young said -- a sentiment echoed by many urban leaders. Young said he was trying to explain that Wal-Mart can solve that problem.
"I guess I was sort of being confronted and challenged for supporting the big monster Wal-Mart, as they call it," Young said. "I was attempting to say that these large shops have been good for my community, and in this meeting I said it too quick. And instead of giving a long explanation, it was a racist shorthand, which was wrong."
During his long career, Young has faced controversy in his life as a politician and as a businessman.
In 1997, under contact with shoemaker Nike Inc., Young was criticized for touring factories with company interpreters and saying he found no widespread abuse of workers, an assertion challenged by many labor groups.
Two decades earlier, he was forced to resign as President Carter's U.N. ambassador after he held an unauthorized meeting with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Young on Thursday asked for forgiveness for his comments.
"That's not how I feel and not how I am, but it is a demagogic statement," he said.
"It's the kind of statement that I have always spoken and worked against."