Mitch Landrieu – Confronting Confederate Myths with “In the Shadow of Statues” | The Daily Show
Articles,  Blog

Mitch Landrieu – Confronting Confederate Myths with “In the Shadow of Statues” | The Daily Show


Please welcome
Mayor Mitch Landrieu. -♪ ♪
-(cheering and applause) -How are ya?
-Welcome to the show. Thank you very much
for having me. Uh, the title of the book
is intriguing. The contents
are even more amazing. Uh, In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner
Confronts History– that is exactly what you are,
a white Southerner. That comes
with a certain connotation. It comes with a certain
stereotype attached to it. But do you think
there is something about it, being a white Southerner,
that-that gives you a different way of thinking
in America? Well, I think so. It gives you
a different perspective. First of all, I love the South.
It’s a great place. I love the city of New Orleans
and the people. But when you’re just dealing
with the issue of race, which is one that we had not
dealt with forthrightly in the country, uh, sometimes
you need to speak truth and you try to speak it in a way that invites people
to a different place. -Right. -And we’ve had a hard
time doing that in this country. And, of course, it’s beginning
to raise its head again. And every time it does that,
I think we have an obligation, especially from the South,
to-to confront the issue and to deal with it so that
we can heal a divided nation. When you look at the story
of the Confederate statues– you were
in the epicenter of this. Four statues in Louisiana that
you were trying to take down, and you would think, I mean,
that it would be a simple exercise,
but it turned into one -where you were receiving
death threats. -Yep. Construction companies
refused to bring it down. You couldn’t get a crane
to do the work. You had to bring in people
from out of state. Were you shocked
at the backlash? Uh, I was surprised at how
visceral the backlash was, and how people, really,
outside of New Orleans, notwithstanding the fact
that they were not from there, felt that they had
some ownership over property that the people
of New Orleans owned, in city that was now
60% African American. -Right. -And I was surprised
that it was so hard. I thought that
after the-the murders in, uh, Mother Emanuel
in Charlotte, when they took down
the Confederate statue, that the nation
would finally come to grips with this particular issue
and realize that these particular statues
were not true, that they were part
of a historic lie. And by the way, it was
in the midst of us rebuilding the city of New Orleans after
the destruction of Katrina, so we were trying to build the
city back not the way it was, but the way it
kind of should have been if we would have gotten it right
the first time. So yeah, I was surprised and
disappointed by how hard it was. What’s interesting in the book
is you talk about your journey as well in discovering
the pain and the message that comes
with the Confederate statues. And I really found that
intriguing, because you acknowledge
that you had a blind spot, you acknowledge that you didn’t
see the statues at all, in fact, -Correct. -and it was a friend
of yours, a jazz musician, who had to bring it to your
attention and had to say to you, “Imagine how it feels
for a black person.” Well, it wasn’t just
any jazz musician. He was actually the greatest one
in the world, -Wynton Marsalis,
-Right. who was a dear friend of mine
when we were growing up. And I had asked Wynton,
as the mayor of the city, to help me curate
the 300th anniversary of the great city
of New Orleans– which we’re about to celebrate,
by the way– and Wynton said to me,
“I’ll help you,” he says, “but you need to
do something for me.” And I said, yeah, sure.
What is it? And, of course, he asked me
just very lightly, “I think you should take down
the Robert E. Lee statue.” -Wow.
-And I said– My first reaction was,
“Why would I do that?” And he said, “Well, do you know
who put them up? Or why they’re there?” And he said, “Can you imagine
them from my perspective and what I think about them
and how they made me feel?” And then the next thing he said
really kind of… hit me in the head
with a brick, was that, Louis Armstrong left the city
because of those statues. And, of course, right away,
I felt very silly. My head felt like it exploded,
because, of course, that’s the explanation,
symbolically, -of the great diaspora.
-Right. Five million African Americans
left the south. Now, can you imagine,
how much we lost with all of that talent, all of
that, you know, raw talent, people who were doctors,
lawyers, musicians left and took their talent
to New York and Detroit, and Chicago and Los Angeles,
and we’re the worse for it. And so the message of the book
is really an invitation to people to be open to the fact that because we made
that mistake, and we can’t admit it, that we are the ones
who are losing, not just the African Americans
who have been sent away. Because the country’s better when-when we understand
and go towards diversity, because diversity is a strength,
it’s not a weakness. It adds value to all of us. I’ve seen people say,
‘Oh, no, look. “I-I agree with you. I think
the Confederacy was bad, “and I think that these statues
should be removed, but at the same time,
we can’t just erase history.” Yeah. Well, there are
a couple of things. Some people never noticed
the statues as symbolic of anything. They were just the places where
their mother or father took them -to watch Mardi Gras parades.
-Right. And it was like
a historic building. They never really
thought much about it. There were people
who had ancestors that fought in the Confederacy, that thought that taking
them down would misremember or do injustice
to the people that served. I just simply think there are
places for remembrance, and there are places
for reverence. Museums are place
for remembrance, so that we never forget, and,
consequently, never repeat. Special places outside
that are part of the public that people walk by,
who own them, like a 12-year-old
African American girl, should not have to walk under
a statue of an individual that fought to destroy
her life and her freedom. That’s not something that
the city of New Orleans has really ever been.
And so, for those people that say they want
to remember history, I say they ought to remember
the totality of history. We don’t really have
a lot of slave ships around, or a lot of places where people
were lynched, or the place where most people
in America were sold into slavery,
which is in New Orleans. And if you want to tell
the whole story, we should to that in context,
and if we’re not gonna do that, let’s just remember the things
that we did, admit that we did them wrongly. Say I’m sorry, hope that
somebody says “I forgive you,” and then move to where we all
want to get in the country. it’s a fantastic book. Your-your message
is one that resonates, and I think
you’re brutally honest in it, which I appreciate. It’s gotten a lot of people
asking now: because your term
is coming to an end– you’ve reached
your term limits– is there a potential 2020 run? -Do you see yourself going up
against a demagogue? -I don’t… I’m-I’m… (laughs) (laughter) (cheering and applause) You are…
It’s obviously very flattering for people to talk to you
in that context. I’ve been doing this
for 30 years. My wife and I have five kids. I don’t have any plans about
what I’m gonna do in the future. The 300th anniversary
is coming up. We’re getting ready to land
a plane. Y’all should celebrate the history and the beauty
of New Orleans, ’cause you helped rebuild it. -So on behalf of the people
of New Orleans, -(applause) thank you all so much. Uh, I-I’m gonna rest
a little bit and then figure out
what I’m gonna do in the future. -He said yes.
-I… (laughs) -Thank you so much.
-Thank you. Thank you for being on the show. In the Shadow of Statues
comes out March 20. Mayor Mitch Landrieu, everybody.

100 Comments

  • Linda Mitchell

    This is how an ally should be. When his friend, Wynton Marsalis, told him how he felt about the Confederate statues, he didn't double down with tired rhetoric about "our history" but listen to his pain and understood.

  • 5%LowBattery

    Every Tuesday, Landrieu has lunch at a local restaurant with his parents, who are both in their 80s. During a recent meal he approached an older couple he knew to say a quick hello. The wife was wearing a scowl as she leaned in close. “You ruined my life,” she said, twice, then added, “You destroyed my life.” “What did I do?” Landrieu asked, revealing a streak of political confidence that dances along the edge of disrespect. “You took the monuments down,” she said. Landrieu replied, “Are you dying? Did it give you cancer?”

  • Pat Sylvest

    Did we just witness the concepts of honesty, diversity, compromise, openness get a second chance for existence? I'll take it.

  • the way I see it

    I am always surprise when I see a cop or a politician stand for decency, thanks sir and I hope you run for higher office.

  • LB2007

    As a jazz fan the Wynton Marsalis bit was one of the biggest name-dropping I heard recently… lol
    But this mayor does seems to be honest and legit. I like him

  • Loki D. Wolf - Random Stuff

    I didn't know that was all because of Wynton! WOW!

    And props with this mayor. I mean we're not looking to make you feel like a piece of shit. We just want history to be truthful. And our history has never been faced. Thus the friction is continual. We all have to acknowledge the murderers yet give no history or historical place for the slaves and the other side of that coin.

    Thank you Mayor Mitch Landrieu!

  • john smith

    Did they remove Albert Pikes statue (confederate)? Taking these statues was not about race, but about any sign of true freedom left. Jefferson Davis fought first for independence ( not slavery). Open up a damn book kids

  • Jr tortellini

    Stupid blacks will be confederate when the government is taking away their freedoms…that what south did was stand up to federal government and not be ruled under dictatorship.. I can't wait to see the outcome of the new world order. Watch agenda 21 then look at this video of containing bout statues they don't have a clue over what they mean ! Those statues are men that stood up to dictatorship and socialism

  • Jr tortellini

    Blacks… listen… If white people are jumping to help stand for you = run… do the opposite…. don't agreed… it will be bad for you !!

  • felixvelariusbos

    …were the audience told to be quiet?
    Like I actually thought that there was no audience until I went to the first few seconds of panoramic and saw the audience. And I'm not entirely convinced they didn't for whatever reason ask the audience to leave during the interview?

    Can't even hear a cough or shift. It's just a bit creepy. The mayor himself was great to listen to.

  • j v

    3:18 I did not know that.
    I'm not surprised though. I'll never forget how shocked I was when I was walking through NO,LA and ran across the statue honoring an armed takeover by white supremacists that happened years after the war was over. When I asked a local friend about it, she said "yeah its disgusting but what can we do? Its a totally corrupt government, and they own it".

    perhaps the times are finally changing.

  • Konnie It's Real

    During Katrina the government was suppose to help they killed people in more then one way and they allow people to kill women and children.

  • Alice Hobson

    I live in New Orleans and I would never vote for this man. He speaks nicely but if you lived here you would not see him the same way. We have streets that are undrivable, we have water advisories at least once a month, our police force is corrupt, we have no trustworthy public transportation, pay stays at $10 our rent keeps rising, airbnb is taking over neighborhoods and moving out families, politicians are trying to take the rights away from women and their right to their bodies, the school systems here are crumbling , innocent people sent to jail because of the corruption in our politics and police force, or fucks sake our last mayor is now in federal prison and Mitch hasn't shown that hes much better.

  • checks and balances

    They weren't even put up until the Civil rights movements right ? They were put up as a political ploy way after the war. Take them out !

  • Ritz Kola

    Amazing. 👏🏿 I always support whites who can admit the truth, and he’s one who’s in power at that?! Rarer than an original mew card. His assertion about admitting the truth is ironic, That’s what racists don’t seem to understand. We know whites aren’t going to give us our 40 acres and a mule. Or our reparations. But if y’all simply admit the truth, we could stop arguing. It keeps everything going in circles- zero progress. Admit the truth, teach your children the truth.

  • JamieLan2011

    I saw this guy on Bill Maher. He was one of the most well spoken, articulate, and reasonable (such a rarity these days) politicians I've seen in awhile. The things he says doesn't just come off as platitudes either. It's just acceptable common sense and normal decency.

  • Sonya Bowles

    I am going to have to read this book. I myself am one of those people who could walk past a statue a thousand times and not know what it was or why it's there. It's a landmark. But my first thought when I first heard that they were taking down the statues, was they can't do that. A history forgotten is a history that can repeat itself. Tbh, I thought it was the government's way of trying to rewrite history. Like none of the bad shit ever happened. But after this, I want to learn more about it. History was my favorite subject in school. Except for American history. I thought that was absolutely boring. Not much to it. We came, we saw, we concord (I know I spelled that wrong). We raped, pillaged, tortured and enslaved thousands of innocent people. IMO, America's history is every bit as dark and disgusting as Germany's.

  • ImBuddhaD

    So much common sense being spoken by this man.
    I’m a bit surprised his statements didn’t get more positive audience response as he said them. U.S. audiences are usually quite vocal.

  • MsDaffy4

    I could not be more proud of our Mayor. Living in New Orleans, you get to interact with people from all over the world and celebrate our cultures. I am glad that we now have a Mayor that can see all of the cultures living in New Orleans and acknowledge ALL of this city's past history.

  • vena thunderbird

    This is what a solution looks like. Instead of all the good talk. Which is, good. But no solutions to be guided by. Both Trevor and Mr. Landrieu are solutions with action.

  • wayne montgomery

    wow there is hope for humanity yet …if statues are there to honor people maybe we should raise the bar … and not included war as a honor

  • Kathleen R.

    This country is way too young to destroy our history. People who don't even know history are the ones who want to destroy it. They don't care about all the blacks, Natives, Hispanics, etc. that served proudly for the Southern states, they just hate the South and worship the federal gov't and they don't take the time to learn the truth. Democrats are fighting wars already fought and opening wounds already healed. They love to make everything about race to get votes. Confederate soldiers deserve their monuments and memorials and flags just like the North does. It is funny how the democrats have no problem with the ISIS flags and Iranian flags being flown in Michigan in the Muslim communities. It is funny how democrats have no problem with the illegals flying the Mexican flag. Democrats have no problems with any flags except the USA and CSA flags. Democrats are the communist party now. They think taking away from one group is okay as long as other groups are happy. FREEDOM doesn't work that way. Everybody matters and all the sacrifices of veterans matter. Veterans from both sides of the Civil War marched sides by side at veteran's events carrying both the USA and CSA flags. Yankee veterans worked to help build memorials for Confederate veterans up North and Confederate veterans worked to build memorials for Yankees killed on our soil. History is a lot more vast and complex than the media and democrats would have people believe. I would suggest that all the young people out there study ALL of history and not just the parts the US politicians and the media want you to know. I will NEVER stop respecting my ancestors and I will NEVER stop fighting for their honor and memorials and graves and flags. It is funny how the democrats are more concerned with desecrating the graves and memorials and statues of long dead Civil war veterans than they are of doing a damn thing to help any living person today. GOD BLESS DIXIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NEVER FORGET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We will NEVER forget the federal gov't marching through the South land and burning and stealing everything in sight and raping white and black women and killing civilians of every race. Minorities need to learn about and respect the service of all the people of color who proudly served their Southern states. Go to the National Archives online and look at all the photos of the Civil War veterans. They do not deserve the hatred and stupidity being directed at them today. The democrats say we should not judge all Muslims for the actions of the terrorists but yet they judge all Southerners and Confederates because of the few that owned slaves. The South did not invent slavery in the USA, the feds did and slavery has existed since the beginning of time. It still exists today especially in the Islamic world but nobody cares about that as long as they can pick on us Southerners and desecrate our family's graves and memorials.

  • Kathleen R.

    After reading all the comments on here, I know I will NEVER cross the Mason-Dixon line if this is how non-Southerners think. Good Lord people are stupid when it comes to history and facts. The USA gov't was not kind to Indians or blacks and they were not kind to Southerners of any race. Lord if y'all hate us Southerners so much you should of let us secede. If you think poor white people who never owned slaves were fighting so that rich people could own slaves, you are idiots. You nuts celebrate every group of people and culture but Southern Americans. When you are defending Islam and crying out for Muslims not to be persecuted for what Islamic terrorists do, think about how you persecute and ridicule Southerners and our history. Then think about how slavery still exists today in the Islamic world and how Islam treats women and children and minorities (smaller tribes, darker skinned people, etc.) like shit. If you people really gave a damn about people you would focus on living slaves and leave my long dead family members alone. They can't hurt you and they never did hurt you. Grow some brains…and some balls for God's sake.

  • Shawn

    Glad a southerner in power has his head on straight. The confederacy is NOT american heritage. They literally weren't Americans and left the fucking country. Confederacy will ALWAYS be synonymous with traitors and slavery. FOREVER

    If the south can't accept that and that NOBODY thinks it's a heritage things then you're fucking nuts and need to accept your white southerner guilt and confront it and PUT THE STATUES IN A MUSEUM

    DO YOU SEE FUCKING GERMANY WITH NAZI STATUES? NO? BECAUSE THEY'RE FUCKING ILLEGAL AND PUT AWAY

  • Marcus McLin

    To those who claim that removing the statues would erase history: Do you remember when President Ronald Reagan tore down the Berlin Wall? Wait, you do!?! But how!?! It was erased from history!!!

  • Miz Rix

    Take the statues down and you erase historical fact that the United States memorialized in stone the military leaders and statesman who fought to destroy the United States. And they were lionized this way in the United States half a century after the Confederacy was defeated by the Civil War. We all know why. Add a plaque or graffiti or human body fluids to remind everyone that WE honored those people who fought for slavery and the subjugation of a part of the human race that was brought here in chains. Let’s amend these memorials to tell the whole story. Here we are a Century after most of these stones went up. Can we finally reckon with who we really are?

  • Joe C

    Tearing down those confederate statues is ERASING history people, don't you get it? For example, the people of New York City tore down the statues of King George in the late 1700s, and that's why nobody knows what the revolutionary war was fought over… see?

  • Adrianne Quinlan

    At 5:15 Mitch Landrieu gave America the solution to solve the dilemma of North Korea. Imagine a people whose country was decimated by the USA, and 10 to 20% of the population was murdered. If you were the leader of that country, would you have an irrational fear of the USA? America must apologize to NK and vow never to commit such a horrible act again, and mean it. Open the door to NK then, and in time NK will heal and come back to the world.

  • Marx Dent

    I may not like trump but I hope his stupidity would start to unite us…
    but we are a ways away… communication may it be our start.
    and compromise may it be our bridge…
    none of this will happen until trump makes that One big mistake he can't blow off as fake news or blame someone else for…
    Thats what I think…

  • Candice Wei

    People like this actually give me hope that America can be great again. Caring about everyone in your town and being able to admit hard truths—what more could you want in a mayor? Or in any politician?

  • Matthew Tenney

    The only reference I can find about Louis Armstrong is that he refused to come back to New Orleans because the city had prohibited integrated bands. I can't find any reference to Confederate monuments.
    How can it be that this mayor suddenly saw the elephant in the room? His friend has to tell him that these statues are the most hateful objects known to man and before that he had no clue? It's not plausible. Afterwards, Landrieu writes an "I love me" book and he gets national attention for being a hero. I think it's all contrived for his political gain.

  • Katherine Pagan

    As a white person born and bred in the South, I love seeing people like him. I truly feel that part of the reason we haven’t gotten over the Civil War is because we’re raised and taught to believe that these statues ought to remain standing. Then, when someone says they shouldn’t, the cognitive dissonance is painful and visceral, and we respond in an angry, visceral way. I was taught that my forefathers fought bravely, and that not honoring the Confederacy was a slap in the face to my home and family, and it took years to unlearn that as an adult. The statues’ continued presence in public areas instead of museums continues to enforce a narrative that will only keep the South—and the country—divided. I still love the South, and she and her people deserve a better future. But we won’t be able to have it until we have an honest and necessary, albeit painful, reckoning with our past.

  • Cynthia Hawkins

    My husband lived and worked in NOLA on the waterfront for 35+ years. He long-shored with the members of the Neville family, who were merchant seamen before they blest us all with their music. My own love for New Orleans, and Mitch Landrieu, who tells the truth with such compassionate wisdom is simply beyond words . I hope for our country's sake – after a well-earned 'time out', he considers a return to some aspect of public service. The man's a national treasure. And do we need him now, or what?

  • Norm Hall

    Mitch is impressive. A man of honor and willing to learn what he doesn't know. I would certainly consider him if he runs for president.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *