Mitch Landrieu: A White Southerner Confronts History
Usually we drop these conversations on Friday mornings – you know, something to look forward to since the workweek excitement is about to end.But we’re posting this on Monday, May 7 because of my guest: It’s his last day as Mayor of New Orleans.Did you see the speech? It was about a year ago and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu stood up and explained to his city and the nation, really, why he removed four statues that honored the Confederacy: Robert E. Lee; Jefferson Davis; P.G.T. Beauregard; and the Crescent City White League.In that speech, Landrieu took on race and inequality and history. He asked: “Why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame... all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans. So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission. There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it.”It was a powerful 20 minutes, and if you haven’t watched it, you should.For a mayor who had so much else to be proud of – his city: New Orleans has rebuilt itself incredibly since Katrina; and his family: his father Moon Landrieu was New Orleans mayor and HUD Secretary under Jimmy Carter; his sister was a U.S. Senator – the speech brought Landrieu into the national conversation at a time when there was a lot of yelling and not much talking.Landrieu has written a book about the statues and race in America – it’s called “In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History,” and it’s excellent.I spoke with Mayor Landrieu four days ago – before term limits meant he would give way to a new mayor. He was gracious with his time – and funny and thoughtful with his words.I asked him about the speech, the book, New Orleans, and of course the question everyone has about him: What about that running for President thing?