tv Mitch Landrieu America Must Confront Issue of Race CSPAN June 16, 2017 10:07am-11:13am EDT
great honor to welcome you to the center for american progress. we are really excited to have special guest today. 61st mayor of new orleans. mitch landrieu. during his 30-year career in public service, mitch landrieu has made -- mayor landrieu has made it his mission to expand opportunity for people a new orleans and across louisiana. as mayor he's worked tirelessly to make his city safer, to revitalize distressed neighborhoods and to attract new business and investment. ms. tanden: his many initiatives are a big reason why new orleans is one of america's fastest growing cities. of course, last month mayor landrieu garnered national attention for a powerful speech he delivered that explained why he fought to remove four confederate monuments from public spaces in his city. many have praised mayor landrieu for the incredible eloquence and passion he displayed that day. and for good reason.
but i have to say, i was particularly impressed by mayor landrieu's speech for another reason. i was deeply moved by the unflinching honesty he used to confront a truly shameful period in american history. his words reaffirmed a simple, undeniable fact. that any attempt to romanticize the lost cause of the confederacy is a decision to embrace a culture that systemically stripped the humanity from generations of innocent men, women and children. as mayor landrieu asked so heartbreakingly in his speech, how could an african-american family living in new orleans explain to their daughter why a ue of robert e. lee stood atop their city. and when i heard that, i had to say, at the time i thought, what incredible leadership, but honestly, also, why did it take to 2017 until we heard that? i'm thrilled that we have the
mayor here to talk about that. we all know that there were no good answers to the question he posed and that any person who tries to gloss over that monstrous, evil of slavery is simply per pep waiting the same -- perpetuating the same things that made it possible in the first place. i'm really excited to have this discussion so we can talk in more depth about his speech, why he made it and also the response. so we're really thrilled to have the mayor here. and we'll have a q&a afterwards, where i hope we can have a good back and forth. so please join me in welcoming mayor landrieu to discuss what he did, why did he it and race in america. thank you. [applause] mr. landrieu: good morning, everybody. how are you? thank you so much for having me, neera. i want to dedicate my speech
today to my dear friend, steve scalise. who, as you know, is suffering in the hospital from a gunshot wound. to his wife and to his family, he is my congressman. and he also is a dear friend. we spent 10 years together in the legislature. and i know it should go without saying, but as hard as we fight about the ideas, some of which we'll talk about today, sometimes the public tends to forget and sometimes we forget ourselves that those of us that are battling on the floor of the house and the senate, on the floor of the legislature, across city halls we really are friends. we know each other well. we grow up together. our children know each other. steve and jennifer celebrated mardi gras celebrations with us in new orleans. sometimes it takes, unfortunately, an awful event like this just to remember that there are boundaries that we
work in and those boundaries were crossed. if you keep him in your prayers and thoughts i would appreciate it. i also want to welcome my little sister, senator mary landrieu, and her husband, frank. [applause] the great donna brazil. [applause] stupendous and spectacular. my daughter, gracie, who is joining us today. deputy mayor ryan bernie who shepping me run the city. and neera, thank you so much for having me. the center for american progress, thank you. there are a lot of folks in this building that do a lot of tremendous work. outside of washington, we get things done. [laughter] you for ook to research. a couple weeks ago i gave a speech at a hall in the city of new orleans. that's new orleans' historic
city hall where for over 160 years we gathered as a people. it's where portraits hang of former mayors going back 100 years. where drawings, when the historic street car that goes down st. charles avenue traverses. it's a place where confederate president jefferson davis was laid to rest, when he died. in the city of new orleans. multiple presidents have been there. foreign dignitaries. it's where every year, if you're from new orleans, it's where we celebrate mardi gras. with the millions of our guests and all of the revelers. it is a place of unity and union. but on that day last month, when i gave the speech from that specific location, just a couple of blocks away there were workers who were masked to protect their identities from domestic terrorists. they were on a crane, removing a massive 17-foot, three-ton
statue of confederate general robert e. lee. it stood there for 133 years. 60 feet above our city, on a pedestal. in one of the most prominent places in our city. since late the night before, the crowds had grown to hundreds. and as a brass band played on that friday afternoon, lee was finally brought to the ground. this was decades in the making. it was almost exactly one year before our 300th anniversary as a city, and nearly 12 years after the federal levees broke in hurricane katrina. and it was an important moment for the city of new orleans. and on that day, i sought to share my thoughts. and it was a very emotional day. the speech was actually entitled "truth." and it came from the heart and the soul and the history of the
people of the city of new orleans. for me it was important to speak directly to the people of new orleans and for the historic record. to actually lay out the reasons why these statues were erected in the first place. why we were taking them down. and what we could do to recover from the age-old battles that had divided us for so long. and because of new orleans' role in that dark period of our history, we were, after all, one of the countries -- country's largest slave markets. i felt that i, and other people in the city, had a special responsibility to help our nation continue to move through racial discord. indeed, the reaction from some was most telling. there were threats. there were angry, heavily armed demonstrators waving the confederate flag.
some waving nazi symbols. intimidation that harkinned back to the jim crow era. one of our contractors we had hired to remove the monuments had their car fire bombed. after death threats. i, the mayor of a major american city, in the midst of one of the greatest rebuildings that the country has ever seen, could not lease a crane because all of the crane operators had been blacklisted. but through all the sound and the fury, the reaction revealed a very basic truth about new orleans. the south, and i believe our country as a whole. if you scratch just below the surface, like we did, there is hidden from view a very deep cut that goes to the very heart of our nation. centuries' old wounds are still raw because they never healed right in the first place. there is a difference, there is a difference between remembrance
of history and the reverence of it. monuments that celebrate a fictional, sanitized confederacy, but ignore the death, the enslavement and the terror that it actually stood for, are an affront to our true history. they are wrong. morally and factually. they serve only to divide and confuse us and they unfortunately have been all too successful in doing that. and herein lies the broader point. here's why it's so important to confront this issue. because if all we do is change the symbols and change the structures and don't change the attitude, it will have all been in vein. if we take down the similar -- vain. if we take down the symbols that celebrate white supremacy and hate and then begin to change the attitudes, we can finally start to really deal with the issue of race, with the real issue of deeper attitude and
concerns. it will allow us to address poverty and jobs, it will allow us to address violence, health outcomes, and many, many more. because of race, we are too often a block away from each other, but a world apart. and if you live in the south, you know exactly what it is that i mean. i'm sure that that's true across the united states of america. in our blessed land, we all come to the table of democracy as equals. our sister taught me that. >> [inaudible] [laughter] mr. landrieu: that is of course one of the basic tenants of america's greatness. we are an exceptional country because indy visibility, freedom and justice for all lies at the very heart of who we are. and what we believe. but you and i know that we have not always lived up to these
aspirations and to these ideals. that doesn't make us bad. it means we need to match our exceptional aspirations with exceptional words and deeds. live with integrity. give every american the tools and the opportunity they need to fully participate in america's great bounty. and that requires us to have tough conversations about race and the disparities that hold all of us back. so when people who are against these monuments said to me, mayor, i don't know anybody that's bothered by these monuments. i said, that's one of the problems. [laughter] mayor, why can't you just let spleeping -- sleeping dogs lie? mayor, you ought to be concentrating on murder, not on monuments. so i'll respectfully ask if you've ever thought about the possibility that these monuments in a way are murder. perhaps think about the
monuments from a different perspective. as i spoke of in my speech and you alluded to. think about the confederate monument ares from the perspective of an african-american mother and father. holding the hand of their 12-year-old daughter, looking at robert e. lee, atop of the beautiful city that she owns. there's no way you can look at that little girl in the eye and convince her that robert e. lee is there to encourage her. there's no way for anyone to think that she's going to feel inspired or hopeful by his story. or how he got up there. and why he's still there. after all of this time. these monuments reveal to her a future where her potential is limited and capped. and the great traffic esty of all of this, one that we can't seem to recognize even at moment, is that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too.
so looking at that issue from the child's eyes is is where the truth comes into focus for us. this is the moment where we know what is right and where we know what we have to do. we have to walk away from this truth. i've driven by those monuments thousands of times. thousands of times. it wasn't until i got this perspective from her eyes that i knew and that i could not personally walk away from this truth as i now saw it to be. you see, these monuments to the lost cause represent an institutional effort to perpetuate white supremacy. it is has existed for a long -- it has existed for a lightning time and slowly strangles certain people's lives. lives like those little girl's. and then ours as well. they're not just metal and stone. they were crafted to send a message. that only certain people are welcome here. and certain people are not. and only certain people are entitled to certain things. and others are not. that some people have value and others do not. that some of us are disposable.
like a virus pushing into our collective subconscious. these ideas manifest a pervasive and devastating cultural ethos that over many, many, many years deny people quality of life and a future. hey deny our humanity. so let me think about what robert kennedy said to us. for there is a type of violence that is slower. but just as deadly and as destructive as the gun or the bomb in the night. this is the violence of institutions. indifference and inaction. and slow decay. this is the violence that affects the poor. that poisons the relations between men because their skin as different colors. ladies and gentlemen, this is the truth as well. race lies at the root of so many problems. but we never really fully reckon with it. until there is a flair-up. -- flare-up in the form of
ferguson, in the form of charleston, the snipers in dallas, the who arer in baton rouge, our attention is fleeting and the conversation is shallow and there is really and rarely any action or follow-up to move us forward. so, america, it is true that our country is exceptional. but it is just as important to acknowledge that we will struggle with america's original sin and the vestiges of slavery, which continue to today. reconciliation begins with an acknowledgment that there was wrongdoing. that a commitment to do better. but in order to have reconciliation, you have to say, i'm sorry. and then someone else has to say, well, i for give you. reconciliation is not someone saying, hey, man, forget about it. it really wasn't that important. i never really wronged you. pick yourself up by your own boot straps. even if you got no boots because i took them away from you. not in my neighborhood.
that's not the way it works. and it is in that this context that we should think about and try to fully understand the old adage that where there is no justice, there is no peace. i used to hear that as if you don't give me what i want, i'm going to take it from you and we're going to have a fight. by any means necessary. i don't see it that way anymore. this is what i think it means. when people are not given what is justly theirs, what is promised to them by the laws and the constitution of the country, where we live, when they don't have access to things that they need, like land and water and food and property and health care, then you can't possibly have peace. all you can expect to have is alienation and anxiety which leads to hate and loathing, which leads to unrest. and leads to violence. so physical violence always starts with this kind of psychological violence. which comes from the conditions of our surroundings and the
messages we receive in and where we grow up. and the damage can be subtle. often unseen. unheard. but it can be devastating nonetheless. tanned explains a lot about things happening -- and it explains a lot about things happening in our country right now. especially when thinking about things like police-community relations, which is an all-orn issue that impacts every american -- all-important issue that impacts every american. racial profiling judges a person by their race and not their behavior. on the flip side, police are judged by their uniform and not their behavior. both are bad. but who gets arrested and who doesn't, who's targeted and who is not is often because of age-old mindsets. it's called implicit bias. it's locked in by experience. passed on over generations. and the impact is real. and it's immediate. for example, reserve has shown that presk lens of drug use -- presk lens -- research has shown that presk lens of drug use is the same in african-american
communities and might white communities. but african-americans are much more likely to be arrested for drugs. this impacts families, housing, education and more. it's a vicious cycle. why do you think that is? a related topic, i spent most of my time as mayor singularly focused on reducing murder in new orleans. two of which we had last night. over 80% of our victims a relata can american young men. too often -- are african-american young men too. often for saken, left behind. no hope. in the life. i've had hard time getting anyone's attention. anywhere in america. on how to save these young men. but when the victim is a young a white college student or a professional athlete,, everything stops. at least for a minute. but it stops nonetheless.
when with will we see that ewe manatee -- when will we see that ewe man -- humanity in all people? whatever the color of their skin, our city's potential is diminished. do not ask for whom the bell tolls. it tolls for thee. that was written a long time ago. the same question can play out in cities and towns of all sizes, in all corners across the country. so i ask you, why do you think that is? we need a conversation, not about these issues in silos, but how they are all poisonous fruit of the same tree, fed by centuries of oppression and racial division. the easy thing to do is just to point fingers and to blame each other. but while the question of fault could go on forever, and seemingly has, the question of responsibility can be resolved by all of us right now. today.
we're all responsible. for ourselves and for each other. and to solve this problem. and we can actually make great progress quickly on things like criminal justice reform. on poverty. on education and so many other topics of concern. but only when we realize that the ties that bind us are stronger than the things that divide us, that we are stronger together. the president actually said that the other night. let me hang that -- let me let that hang there for a second. [laughter] our racial divisions keep us from seeing that. which gets us to our current political moment. there are working class white being left behind in this country. it's been talked about and written about, particularly in the context of the last election. and the fact is that that is really true. we need to see that to know that, to understand that. but it's also true that african-american working class
is getting left behind too. and has for a long time. when you go to some of the more difficult areas in appalachia, the rest bullet, or you go to our state -- belt, or you go to our state, anywhere in the deep south, and you're seeing people, some white, some african-american, some now latino, vietnamese, they're struggling. with a lot of the same stuff. but throughout history, demagogues with their own political agendaed -- eakeds make white people think that brown people and black people are just trying to take their stuff. and vice versa. we put people in a pit together and have them convinced that if one of them has something the other one can't have it. we have them fighting over a little bit of meat on an otherwise empty bone. instead of having them stand side by side, working together to grow the pie. so that they all can benefit. as opposed to benefiting from the presence and commune onthat they would enjoy together. and the sad thing is that they, working class african-americans and whites, haven't found each
other. and yet don't understand that their futures are united as one. they share common interests. as dr. king said, they are bound n a single garment of destiny. if that actually happened, if they found each other, if they got together, if there was a coalition of working people and disenfranchise aid cross the races, it would be a political -- disenfranchised across the races, it would be a political queark. there would be an unstoppable force. both groups would get when they wanted, needed and deserved. president kennedy said, if a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. in his inaugural address. so therein lies the next step. we in cities and towns across america must not only reclaim our most public spaces for the united states of america, but that must be part of a broader ovement toward reconciliation,
common understanding and empowerment. that means breaking down age-old racial barriers and having tough conversations that are not happening right now. it means both governing with a lens common understanding and of equ find common ground, which is what wear trying to do in new orleans. so now is the time to take stock of and to reckon with our history. so that we can go forward. i say it all the time. you cannot go around race. you can't go under it. you can't go over it. you have got to go through it. and walking through it is hard. it's painful. it's uncomfortable. but when we come out of the other side, we're all going to be better for it. and once we start to listen rather than speak, see rather than look, -- look away, we will realize a simple truth. that we all want the same thing. peace, prosperity, economic opportunity. we all believe in faith. we all believe in country. we all believe in family.
and we all want our kids to have a better life than we did. but still there are some who are cynical and believe we cannot change. they think somehow that these divisions are part of the natural order of things. some would say that reconciliation is not possible. some would say that this quest s naive. mary can tell you this as well as i can, we can attest to this truth because we saw it after katrina. that when everybody is wet, everybody's tpwhatter, when everybody needs to be saved, and everybody needs to be pulled out, nobody worried about what boat they were getting in. hey just got in the damn boat. amen. i saw that moment of catastrophe when the entire civil government of the united states of america disappeared and black people and white people did not see color in that moment. when they had a common enemy when they had a common threat,
when they had a common opportunity, there was unity. unity of purpose. unity of mission. it was immediate. and it was beautiful. in our darkest hour. and if it can happen there, it can happen anywhere. but you got to go through a lot to get there. and only then is it possible to understand that we are better together. only then can you start to understand the root of so many of our ills that still plague us. only then can you see the humanity in our people -- other people of other races. so we should prove the naysayers wrong. as americans there is nothing we can't do. but only if we make a commitment to stay united as one. because we are one nation, not two. indivisible with liberty and justice for all. not some. we all are part of one nation. all pledging allegiance to one flag. the flag of the united states of
america. it is in this union and in this truth that real patriotism is rooted. and flourishes. it need not take us generations to put this behind us. we're an exceptional country because of the very idea of who we are and what we believe. we need to match this exceptional aspiration with exceptional words and deeds. in other words, very simply, we have to live with integrity. anything less would render generations of courageous strugging -- struggle and soul searching a truly lost cause. thank you very much. [applause]
neera: thank you so much. i just want to say again, on behalf of the center for american progress, how honored we are to have you. for those incredible remarks. i guess i will start out with one basic question. which is you talked about how important it is to actually go hrough instead of go around. why do you think we've had so few leaders, particularly white political leaders, go through? instead of go around? i think one of the great responses to your remarks was , not ou are a white mayor an african-american mayor, yet you speak with such passion, commitment and clear clarity of what happened. mr. landrieu: well, i don't know the answer to that question. but i can is you mice a couple things which is we're all the
product of our experiences. mary and irtwo of nine children -- i are two of nine children. we things which is grew up in t was born in 1960. the same year that my father who was in the legislature was one of two white legislators that voted against the segregation package. he told me for the first time the other day, although he tells me a lot of the stories over again, but he told me a new one. [laughter] is that when he got in the elevator after he cast that vote, a great segregationist, perez, back in the day, along with someone else put a finger in his chest and said, you're dead. this was a 29-year-old young guy that had a wife at home who was pregnant and had four children. my whole life has been part of that ethos and trying to understand that mary's and i's lives have been informed by the environment that we grew up in
and we grew up in -- i used to think i lived in a mixed neighborhood. but my white friends told me i lived in an cavern american neighborhood. i never understood why they saw it differently for me. 60% white, 40% black. somehow it was a plaque neighborhood. it got -- black neighborhood. it never got to me. as we have been part of that entire process, as a leader, i have come to find that it's really hard to solve problems that you just disagree with. it's much harder to solve problems when people don't see the truth. and see the facts. in this whole world of alternative facts that we're living in right now, besides all of the other history of so many other people that went before me, i never started this. i mean, every other mayor before me has really talked about doing this. so the not as though i'm trying to do something no other mayor's done. i was fortunate enough to be able to get it done. but some of it had to do with facing the truth about who we are and what we are. and seeing if we can actually
get to the truth so we can have a legitimate disagreement about what the right answer is to fix the truth. but throughout the entire south, and this is one of the issues that came to me, as we're trying to curate the city of new orleans by our 300th anniversary, which is next year by the way, as we're rebuilding the whole city and we are, we've rebuilt every school. when mary was here she was incredible in getting us the money we need to help rebuild the city. we've rebuilt all of our health clinics, hospitals, schools. everything in new orleans that can rebuild -- we had to rebuild because we got destroyed from katrina. as we were look at our city and we began to think about our public spaces, and was we began to rebuild the city, not back the way it was, but the way we always should have been, had we got continue right the first time, those statues stuck out like a similar silver thumb and said, why are they up in our most prominent places and how much of our historyry do they really represent and do they represent us as a people? that's how this conversation started.
when we began to do the research on it, it was pretty clear that those statues were put up by folks who either were not from new orleans or didn't really fully understand us or weren't fully trying to make everybody feel welcome. just as a matter of curating the public spaces, when we got into it, it was clear that they were put up under false pretenses and it was put up by the mayor and city council in 1890. the mayor had been a confederate soldier and they were trying to tell a story that wasn't true. if you walk by that every day and see something that's not true but you think it is, it will force you to act a certain way. the idea then was to turn the city back over to the people who really owned it. and really thought about who we were and to be honest about where we came from and where we're going, which is essentially why we did it. i'm just as surprised as everybody that this speech was viral because i was talking to the people of new orleans and trying to lay the historical record correctly so that we can actually govern with honesty. neera: and i think one of the points you made in your speech is that you can't really heal
until you actually deal with the truth. and how has the aftermath -- obviously you detailed some of -- passions is a nice word for threats and threats of violence. have you seen people changing their minds? mr. landrieu: again, painting everybody with a broad brush is always a very dangerous thing to do. there are people on the left and the right, far left, far right, who feel the way they do but decide to act in a way that's outside of the bounds of politics. you saw it the other day. with the gentleman that shot steve scalise. and how he somehow got his head into a place where he thought that whatever he thought it was ok to go kill another human being. that was awful. not everybody who is on the other side of this issue feels that way. neera: right. mr. landrieu: and there are different gradeations of this. on top of that, if you go talk
to other people on both sides of the racial divide, there's a lot of unspoken stuff that just never really gets fronted because it's hard to hear. and it's hard to understand. we're really not good at it. but i do think that the conversation of race occupies a very different place. i have to say that in all the hard things we've done in this city, in almost everything we've done in the city has been incredibly hard since katrina. race is the hardest one. so my team borrowed a book from what happened in south africa, with desmond tutu, that had been brought over here by william winter at the racial reconciliation institute of ole miss. and we actually began something called the welcome table in the city. where we had different people with different races sit around the table, really for years. and by the way, i didn't just start taking these months down yesterday. this started -- monuments down yesterday. this started functionally about 2 1/2 years ago. but we had been talking about it
for well before when south carolina happened. what we found was when people sit across the table from each other in their kitchens and they listen to each other and they talk to each other and they live together and their children get together, it begins to thaw. they begin to understand. they begin to see, which is painfully obvious, that we're more alike than we are apart. but race is a real deep divide. and the just hard for us. and we're not good at it. which is why i say, you can't go over it. you can't gloss over it. you have to sit and you have to go through it. which means that you have to take time at it. it has to become part of everything that you do. and it has to be an understanding about how you create solutions that are quote-unquote equitable. we have an equity strategy in the city of new orleans built around our budget that doesn't just talk about equality, equity's different from equality. dr. norman francis, the langest -- longest serving president of an hbcu, like my daddy, has been with us for a long time, gives a speech and he what has two glasses -- and he has two glasses that have water in them.
one has a little bit more water than the other. if you take a pitcher and you pour the exact same amount of water in both glasses, when you finish pouring, they're still going to be far apart. equity's about getting them back together. in terms of hope and opportunity. and we don't really have an equity lens. on a lot of the work that we're doing on the public policy initiative. i think race informs that. but if you don't have the conversation, if you don't confront the issues, then you're not going to have a chance of working through them to get to the other side. neera: we're going to go to questions just after this one. so get them ready. i'll call on folks and just identify your name and who you're with. my last question is going to be about the response in the country. so, i reached out to you to come youra.p. because i've seen speech online. tens of thousands of people were distributing it. my take on that is that it did
seem that there was such a response in the country to their the remarks, in part because it does feel like your message of inclusion seems a little bit in stark contrast to some of the messages we seem to get from some political leaders. that tend to maybe divide more than heal. pit people against each other more than pull them together. do you see that? do you have thoughts on that? and do you think it's more important for leaders to respond to these issues as we face those challenges? and how do you think we can address them? mr. landrieu: i'll say a couple of things. in defense of the south. i love the south. i am a son of the south. born in the south. spectacular place, spectacular people. and the problems of the south are no different from the problems of the rest of the country. just trust me on that. those of you who are not of us.
but if you want to have fun and a joyful life, move to the south. [laughter] or just come to new orleans. so that's, first of all. secondly, i'm going to give you an outside of washington answer. see this across see this across both political parties. you will know when you're speaking in an inclusive way when people come. you'll know that you're speaking in an exclusive way when you push people away. during the last campaign, there was a debate inside the clinton campaign about which strategy should be used. should you go to your base, should you try to expand out, can you win this because of demographic trends that are going to make the country, you know, quote-unquote, nonwhite by
2050? you know, or do you have to continue to expand out? on the other side, you hear the president every day and cnn talking about, well, he's tweeting because he wants to go back to his base. i never think that that's a good idea. in terms of finding solutions for the country. everybody's got something to add. there are lots of things that our side doesn't understand about the other side and they don't understand about us. that's not because we can't. that's because are we don't. -- because we don't. i'm looking at my sister senator the other day, we're campaigning for her in louisiana. both of us by the way got elected state-wide. i twice, you four times? so it's possible. when we were campaigning, you had to go into every neighborhood and ask everybody, if you don't go see them, if you don't go ask them what they think, what else are they going to conclude except that you don't care about me and don't want to hear me and see me.
i think in our life's experience, one of the essential basic thing that we learned, like in kindergarten, is you reach out to people and you ask somebody to be your friend. there's a much better chance that that's going to happen, than if you act like they can't come into the classroom. or get picked on the softball team. or the kind of things that kids do to each other. i think people are feeling alienated. i think it's incumbent on all politicians to represent the people that elected us. and in order to do that we have to listen to all of them. even the ones that disagree with us. because there always is a colonel of -- kernel of truth. even if people are half wrong, they're kind of half right. there's some value there. and i think that one of the things that we see in state legislatures and city councils, you certainly see it in congress today, is anability to forge a governing compromise. it's not because the answer's not there. i think the country already knows what the answer is on immigration reform. i think the country already knows what the answer is on health care reform.
i think the country already knows that there's a solution out there which at least 66% of the people in the country would agree with. 2/3. but for some reason, our political bodies can't get themselves to a commune onon any issue. which makes us feel like we can't get anything done. i just think that when the radical center has disappeared, which i put myself in the middle of, and folks are not given permission to come to an agreement and are chastised for compromise, i don't think that bodes well for us. you can't get to that unless you're listening to everybody and then you have an opportunity to make hard decisions. i do think, however, that race rises above any issue in my life that has caused people to not be able to see each other and hear each other. the reaction to these monuments, i have to say, i knew it was going to be hard.
i'm not naive. i've been alive for a lightning time. but i -- been alive for a long time. but i have to say that it has saddened me about how this issue was handled and how people responded to it and the level of threats and violence and then the pushback. that is not ok. in the united states of america. in the second decade of the 21st century. that is not ok. as a consequence of what happened to steve a -- steven the other day, i think what the country needs a lot is elected officials, and by the way, we're not only -- the only ones. preaches, coaches, mothers and fathers, everybody to stand up and say, that is not ok. thrast right and there is a wrong. there is a good and thrast bad. there is evil and there is good. if we're going to fight with each other, we're going to fight within these boundaries and there are rules. if you don't follow the rules, you get kicked off the island. then within that, hit as hard as
you need to hit, but make sure the hit is fair. you want to criticize somebody else, criticize them, but stay away from their personal -- all that crazy stuff that people do with personal terrorism. and stay focused on what is good for the united states of america. if we can kind of govern ourselves back into that space, it seems to me we'll get to a better place. but at the end of the day, and i'll end with this, the issues of race and class, all of those things are tough. we have to know that they're there. we have to focus on them. and here's the thing. if we can get past that it seems to me that that opens up the flood gates of possibility on solving the real things that most of us really are concerned about. neera: all right. i'm going to ask questions. right there. wait for the mic. questioner: hi. my name is ruth. i think the most important affiliation is i always say, new orleans is the city of my soul.
i feel very much loved. i lived there maybe five or six times for periods of time. big fan. i saw the piece on "60 minutes" about new orleans' problems with criminal justice reform. and the public defender system. i'm wondering what your thoughts are about that and the importance of that in context of what you've been talking about. and a quick other thing, i've heard your name mentioned as a potential candidate for a higher office. any comments? [laughter] mr. landrieu: i'll take those backwards. no. i don't have any comment. i'm not running for president. but thank you. that's very nice of people to think about that. but on the criminal justice reform stuff. new orleans is much like everywhere else around the country. we're trying to get handle on where we put our focus. and we've had this upside down. we spent a huge amount of time, and there's some racial issues here too, about focusing on
nonviolent crime that put people in jail for a long time, that creates high recidivism rates. and not enough time on violent criminals. listen, there's some bad people in this country that for whatever their circumstances or reasons, they're going to hurt other people. those people have to be put in jafmente they have to be secured and we have to be safe. but the system is upside down. point a. point b, the funding mechanisms don't really work very well. louisiana probably is the poster child for how we've done it wrong. we're the most incarcerated city and state in the nation and consequently the world. we also have the highest crime rate. thanks really difficult complicated issue. we're dealing with it in new orleans every day. it manifests it self in shootings and murders that are mostly by handgun. the victims mostly are young african-american men. and then we had a situation in a orleans where we had
parish jail, you all would hear it as a county jail, but we had 7,000 human beings in a city jail. which was bigger than the most -- the biggest jail in the united states of america. we've been working on policies that only arrest people for violent crimes and make sure that there's just determination of whether they're guilty or not. funding for the d.a. and indigent defenders has always been an issue. i happen to be the mayor so i get to listen to everybody scream about budget priorities. that's always a challenge. the big deal is that we spend an exponentially large sum of taxpayers' money on the back end side of criminal justice. police, jails. you want to try to get on the front end side of that, so early childhood education, mental health and substance abuse, domestic violence. all of those issues -- we have to make this gar gantt one
aggressive leap. ut it takes resources. the one thing that really is about the truth. you can do more with less. no, you can't. you do less with less. now, everybody knows that we ought to be efficient and we ought to be honest. we ought to work hard. we ought to have only the regulations that are necessary. but essentially when you get on the ground like i am, and i am on the ground, when i say something, it hits the ground right away. police pay raise, police cars, it's not like something that percolates for two years and you argue about it and you may get to it and not get to it or it gets interrupted by a tweet. no. it goes right down to the ground. when you have less, you do less. when you have less, kids don't
get taught swimming lessons. when you have less, the summer feeding program means you feed less people. less is less. people get hurt. more is more. this is the only place in the world where you can say less is more and somebody go, oh, yeah. that sounds great. it's just not true. so that's why when you say, if we could get back to operating in truth and based on facts, there's plenty enough to argue about once you get that foundation under you. neera: in the back there. actually, right there. then we'll go to the back. questioner: hello. thank you for being here. my name is chellsj jones. i'm a graduate student, getting my masters in public policy. but i'm also from the south, from texas. my question has to do with economic oppression. i feel like with systemic racism, the way it's able to perpetuate for so long, is the
inequity when it comes to economics between races. between classes. so what do you feel that are the most important steps for cities to take to ensure economic equity? mr. landrieu: first of all, you're from texas? and you claim you're from the south? [laughter] people in texas are -- they're going to get mad at you. no. so, you know, in the talk i just gave, you heard me use a phrase that i asked you to think about. that we live a block apart, a block away, but a world apart. that's not just a fancy phrase. if you go run a spatial analysis on neighborhoods, it's absolutely true in new orleans. i'm sure the true in other areas. a general would call it the railroad track test. same neighborhood, same topography, same land, same access to everything. but you live on this side, you got more. you live on that side, you got less.
closeness to chemical companies, all that kind of stuff. in new orleans, i've give an long speech a long time ago, i don't have all the numbers in front of me, but i used st. charles avenue. that's a street that runs right down the middle of our city. it's a street that separates a neighborhood called central city, which sends more kids to angola, which is our really bad prison, and on the other side is the garden district. more kids to harvard. and they're literally 150 yards away from each other. on mardi gras day it is absolutely true that michael and joseph meet on that spot and have joy all day long. and could be the bestest of friends. and at night when all the parades go away, michael goes to this side and joseph goes to the other side and one of them heads toward angola and one of them headed toward harvard. if you look at the demographic
and economic data, you'd go, wait, this is crazy. why is this happening? why in america do we 'lou this to occur? which goes again to the see that people don't want to talk about -- to the issue that people don't want to talk. complicit bias. this goes to the issue of race where you really need to listen to african-american families and they say, there's no pathway to prosperity for me. and so in new orleans, one of the ways we're trying to deal with it is to create a pathway to prosperity. this is very kind of simple. it actually came out of an experience i had when one of my children was sick and was being taken care of at children's hospital. when you walk into that hospital , if you notice this in children's hospitals, they mostly have a lot of color. there's a yellow line and there's a blue line and there's a red line and there's a green line. and the elevators are colored too. yellow takes you to oncology.
orange takes you to the heart guy. the blue takes you or the green takes you another place. it's an actual pathway to something that can help you. i kind of decided early on, when we got a report, that said 52% of african-american men are not working in the city of new orleans, just let that sit with you for a minute. we're celebrating less than 4% unemployment rate in the country. when it's a little bit higher than that we have trouble and we're arcing about whether wageses are going up. 52% of an can american men are not working in the city. -- of african-american men are not working in the city. some of them can't, about most of them want to. they don't have a pathway there. all of our kids that go to college, you kind of assume there's going to be a counselor there that can help you sign up. if you get in trouble, you have somebody to go to. that doesn't happen in those communities. there's nobody to give them a pathway to a thing. we created an economic strategy called pathways to prosperity. for every one of those individuals.
well, 52%'s a percentage. you want to know how many people it is? i did. people said, you can't know their faces. i said, what are you talking about? when we run for office, i know every voter in my district. i know where they live. i know what they're vote -- their voting history is. i can tell you what color door they have in front of the house. so why can't we individually know these people? 38,600 men. is the number. we started creating in new orleans specific pathways for them, this is what you need to know about them. they weren't all the same. they were different ages. they had different experiences. some were return, had dropped out. some were coming from prison. the problem is you've got to find them and then you have to have a job for them. so where are the jobs, which goes to the issue of something the country has really got to be thinking about. everybody works.
if everybody is going to work there has to be a job. how are we going to create those jobs? we have an interesting conundrum in louisiana right now. i don't know the answer, this is the problem. in southwest louisiana , in a city called lake charles, in the heel of the boot, right next to texas, they're doing about $80 billion investment in the creation of liquefied natural gas plants. they need thousands of employees to help weld and do all this stuff. my brain go, that ain't that far away, that's a three-hour bus ride. where are they going to get those employees? there's no connection, no discussion. these guys need work, there's work to be hard. how do we train them for those jobs, how do we break down those issues? i'm going to bet a little bit of it is ability race, a little is about training and a little bit is not being creative enough.
but this is what is writ lanche -- large in america, how do you train them.and cree republican, democrats, independents, everybody else, we need to figure out how to make that happen. so you can take a young man that doesn't have the kind of guidance that maybe you and i would have because our parents would tell us and give us age-specific path, who is going to talk to you, who will help you when you fall who will lift you up when you need assistance. just like we do with kids in college who come home and seem like they're struggle, we have to have that touch. we're not equiped to do that anywhere in the country at the moment. >> do you have time for one more question? >> i like this, i'm not leaving. >> i want to thank you both, thank you mayor for your comments. my name is jerry warburg, i'm a
recovering politician if the city. i escaped to the peaceful hamlet where none of these problems never arise. i returned to my home city of sharlingtsville to find k.k.k. rallies scheduled. the guy who has the office next nor, theke si fwmbings mayor, i've experienced this already from hosting town hallsing one had 103 policemen guarding our local congressman at the town hall that i was moderating, my question for you is, what advice would you give mike and the people of charlottesville a blue island in a sea of red, trying to do this right, trying to have a dialogue but very determined to get to a result not dissimilar from your own? >> well i'm not on the ground
there, so i don't want to -- like a doctor that hasn't seen the patient, i don't want to give you bad advice and have him get hurt. i would say a couple of things. this is really, really deep. we struck a deep bone here. i don't want to tell you i'm completely surprised by it, but am -- i am surprised. by how hard it is for people to let go of something that was obviously not true. to not how y speaks wrong the other side might be but how much work we have to do to talk to each other so they can now see us. i have to say that my political sense in new orleans is that most of the people -- i know this to be true. the overwhelming majority of
people in my city, the people i actually work for and i'm really clear about who i work for, one of -- wanted these monuments to come down. lots of people outside of our city, for some reason, feel an ownership of this. and i'm being very parochial here. i was trained as a lawyer. but to me in its essence, this as a property dispute. it was really simple. it's like -- do you have circles here in washington? i was kidding, i know that. come on. i was bosh at night but not last night. let's just think about dupont circle. dupont circle is owned by somebody, i'm assuming it's the city of washington, d.c., it may not be, but whoever owns it has the right to decide what goes on that property. we had a public space the city own and we had a right to put on
that space whatever we thought. for some reason there are people that don't live in new orleans, some that live around the state, some that live around the country, that think they own that piece of property and can tell somebody else what to do with it. all the other stuff is laid on top of that my question would be this some said, mayor, you're a dictator, no. at a racial reconciliation conference i said these words. this sweetly. i think it's time that we have a discussion about taking those monuments down. those were the words i used. you would have thought i said something else. that's exactly what i said. after that, there's actually a process in the law in new orleans about how yo do this. you may have this. follow the law. we had to go to three commissions that were occupied by citizens who actually sat on those commissions. they had to have public hear, they had to vote to allow me to take them down.
then we had to go to the city councille. we had two robust city council meetings and they voted 6-1 to take it down. then the courts got involved, we had seven courts with 13 different judges on the federal, state, and local level that had to walk through this issue. that's how functionally it got done and then we had atwreed to raise private funds to do it because of the security threat that cost us more money than we thogget an we actually brought it down and there was a lot of pain and agony around it. some people estill do not want to yield not withstanding the fact that we went through a democratic possess. some said i should have taken it to the vote of the people. i wonder about that because we live in a republic. it's not designed that way. it's designed for the elected folks and from time to time in certain states they have referendums but it's mostly not. this is -- this occurred to me the other day. why do they think the
confederate generals occupy such a special place that that's supposed to be given special status in a democracy to undo what we know is not historically correct? you have to think about the mindset that would take you to people that feel so stongly about that, they think this should rise above passing a federal budget and requiring a direct vote of the people. which is to say this. that you're in a very hot, difficult environment. it is an issue that has to get worked through. i happen to think that nikki haley and the folks in south carolina did a really good job after the shootings in south carolina and that the people of south carolina allowed that event to happen in a dignified way. this should happen the same way across the country. i don't think it's refutable. that the lost cause is a direct attempt to sanitize our history. and to deny the humanity of our fellow american citizens. i think if we allow our country to stay in that space and not to confront that in a thoughtful way, it doesn't give anybody the
opportunity to transform. what we're seing in new orleans, i believe, right now, is people who after having heard this speech are beginning to say, i never really thought about it. and now that they're thinking about it, you can see them moving into a different space. on our side, remember, i said you can't have reconciliation, unless somebody says i acknowledge or i'm sorry. you have to be in position to say no problem, i forgive you, let's get past this. we have more in common and recognize unless we get past this, we can't concentrate on the common threats, or common opportunities that we have. you've got to walk through it. so my advice to him at the risk of putting him in at least political harm's way is to stay the course. and if he believes that it's the right thing to do and he believes it's a just thing to do he ought to go ahead and do it. as my dad said to us if you
don't spend your political capital what the hell do you have it for? that's a good lesson. that's why we serve. >> i think that is a phenomenal end to this conversation. [applause] and i also think that last statement is one of the many reasons why there was such a national response to what you did. i want to thank you for the example, moral leadership you're showing, not to just the south but the entire country. >> thank all of you, it's great to see you. >> thank you. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]