Landrieu: Removing monuments important for reconciliation



JUDY WOODRUFF: But, first, we talk to another
mayor who has had to confront a troubling history of racism in his city. Mitch Landrieu spearheaded the removal of
four Confederate monuments in New Orleans. He recounts the cultural and political battle
to bring them down in a new book, "In the Shadow of Statues." We spoke earlier today. And I began — and he began his response to
the situation in Sacramento. MITCH LANDRIEU (D), Mayor of New Orleans,
Louisiana: It's a very painful example, again, that we haven't gotten it right yet in the
country. First of all, most law enforcement officers
show up for work, they put their lives on the line, they risk their lives. But there have been too many examples over
the years of police officers not being properly trained, trained to shoot first and ask questions
later. And then there's a lot of gray area. But one of the things that's been universally
true over the past couple of years that we have been dealing with is how to investigate
these things so that the community feels like there's been an honest assessment of whether
or not it was done appropriately or not. And I know that they're going through this
in Sacramento. We used to go through this in New Orleans
a lot. We have under federal consent to grief for
eight years. All of our police officers now wear body cams. Every time there's a police-involved shooting,
the area gets cordoned off. We have independently folks that are not on
the police department to help investigate the matter, so the public knows about it. But, clearly, there's a rupture that has existed
between police departments and the community. And you have to work really hard to put that
back together. JUDY WOODRUFF: When you came up with the idea
a couple years ago, after talking to Wynton Marsalis… MITCH LANDRIEU: Right. JUDY WOODRUFF: … of taking down Confederate
statues, you met with enormous opposition. MITCH LANDRIEU: I certainly did. But I want to put this in context for the
country. As New Orleans suffered from the effects of
Katrina, and then Rita, and then Ike, and then Gustav, and then the BP oil spill and
the recession, we were in the midst of rebuilding the cities. And as we built the hospitals and the riverfront,
we were thinking about, well, how are we going to get ready for our 300th anniversary, which
allowed us to really think about where we had been and what we were doing. And the public spaces came into full view. So, when I asked Wynton, who, as you know,
is not only a great musician, but a great historian, to help me curate the 300th anniversary,
he said, you really ought to think about taking those statues down, because they don't reflect
who we are. And have you ever thought about them from
the perspective or from the perspective of the African-American community? And, of course, that set off an explosion
in my head. And I started thinking about why they were
there. And that really kind of began the process
of suggesting to the city that we take them down. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, ultimately, they came
down last year, because but not without — it became a national discussion. MITCH LANDRIEU: Correct. JUDY WOODRUFF: And the president got involved. MITCH LANDRIEU: Yes, he sure did. JUDY WOODRUFF: At one point, he said, "It's
sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart" by taking
down these statues. MITCH LANDRIEU: Well, it's really interesting,
because these Confederate monuments were actually put up well after the Civil War ended. And, of course, everybody knows or should
be able to acknowledge that the Civil War was fought to destroy the United States of
America, not to unite it, and it was fought for the cause of slavery. And it shouldn't be hard to say that. And so what I say in the book is, I make a
distinction between having these monuments up in places of reverence, where we can revere
these men for what they did, because what they did was wrong, and remembering what they
did, so that we never repeat it. And I think it was a very important step in
the process that the country has to go through for racial reconciliation. JUDY WOODRUFF: And yet it's 150 years after
this country fought that Civil War. MITCH LANDRIEU: Correct. JUDY WOODRUFF: It's 50 years after the civil
rights movement. MITCH LANDRIEU: Correct. JUDY WOODRUFF: Why did it take so long? MITCH LANDRIEU: And it's a couple of years
after we had an African-American president. JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes. MITCH LANDRIEU: Which goes to the big point. The fact that the speech that I gave actually
resonated across the country means that we have a problem that hasn't been reconciled. And we have not really done a good job of
it. And so whether it's police-community relations,
whether it's other particular issues that we're confronting, we have to work through
this issue of race that we obviously have not worked through very well. JUDY WOODRUFF: The country keeps dealing with
it in different ways. (CROSSTALK) MITCH LANDRIEU: Well, we don't — the truth
is, we don't deal with it at all. We act like, oh, we had the Civil War, we
had civil rights, let's get over it, let's move behind. And the African-American community is saying,
wait a minute, we have more to talk about and we have more to do. And there are tons of examples of it. But one of the things that the book tries
to do is create an open invitation for people to rethink their history and to reflect on
whether or not the history that was told was actually the true history, much less the whole
history. And I think that, when they do that, they
will recognize that, as a country, that diversity is a strength for America, not a weakness. And, of course, some people want to re-litigate
that right now. And I think we have to restate it very clearly,
so people know where we stand. JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that being heard right now
in New Orleans and in the state of Louisiana? MITCH LANDRIEU: Well… JUDY WOODRUFF: Are people accepting this now? MITCH LANDRIEU: We're certainly talking about
it a lot now. And I think a lot of people are being moved
to think about it, because when you put yourself in somebody else's shoes, it gives you a chance
to see the world a little bit differently. So, I'm hoping people will really think through
it. JUDY WOODRUFF: I quoted some of what the president
said about the idea of taking down these Confederate statues. He is very much against it. How has he changed or affected the conversation
around race in this country? MITCH LANDRIEU: Well, he is certainly not
the cause of our problems, but he is a symptom of them. And his uncareful language that he uses helps
exacerbate it. He has given people who are avowed white supremacists
the feeling that now is the time for them to come out of the shadows and speak forcefully
to the notion that whites are actually better than African-Americans and that this nationalism
and nativism that's manifesting itself is OK. And I just think that, whether you're a Republican
or Democrat, a conservative or liberal, one of the things we ought to agree about in America,
as Americans, is that there's no room for white nationalism in the United States of
America. And that has taken people into very dangerous
places historically, not only in this country, and in other countries. And we can argue about whether or not we want
to approach the world through tax cuts or what oppositions on war and peace and all
that stuff has been on — on white nationalism, and the notion that, somehow, white people
are superior to brown people or black people. That's not who we are as Americans. That's not who we aspire to be. JUDY WOODRUFF: Your term as mayor is up in
May of this year. A lot of conversation already about whether
you are going to run for president in 2020. What is your thinking about it? MITCH LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, I don't
intend to do that. I'm coming to an end of a 30-year career. And I have been blessed to, in the last eight
years, serve in one of the great cities of all time. And I'm very thankful to the public for everything
they have done to help us stand and of course to celebrate our 300th anniversary. I hear the chatter, but everybody is just
desperate to think about what's coming next, because I think people are tired of the chaos
that we have. But there are going to be lots of other people
that are going to do that. I don't intend to do that right now. In politics, as you know, you never say never. You don't know what the future holds, but
that's not something that I'm planning on doing. JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you think, finally,
the pluses and minuses are for a Southerner, a Southern Democrat in 2020 coming off this
administration? MITCH LANDRIEU: It's interesting. We always try to guess what is going to come
next. And everything turns out to be completely
unpredictable. Nobody could have predicted President Obama. Nobody could have predicted President Trump. And, as you know, as being a veteran journalist,
that something is going to happen that we don't have any idea about relating to a world
crisis, manmade. And it is going to change the way people think. And so I think it's way too early to try to
game that out at this point in time. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we thank you for coming
in. MITCH LANDRIEU: Thank you. JUDY WOODRUFF: Mitch Landrieu, mayor of New
Orleans. The book is "In the Shadow of Statues: A White
Southerner Confronts History." MITCH LANDRIEU: Thank you for having me. JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

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