Washington, D.C. – U.S. Conference of Mayors President, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu issued the following letter to mayors calling on them to unite their communities and to stand up to those who seek to divide and perpetuate hate.
Throughout our nation’s history, mayors have led the charge opposing all forms of racism and discrimination. From the start of the civil rights movement, to the fight for equality for LGBT residents, to the ongoing battle to build more equitable and cohesive communities, we have always stood on the side of compassion and inclusion.
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy asked our conference to lead the country toward racial reconciliation and civil rights. He called on mayors to help him provide every American “a fair chance to develop in full whatever talents he has and to share equally in the American dream.” This is our history and our legacy and our beacon forward.
Today, we find ourselves at a moment of truth. Once again, mayors have been asked to fill a void of national leadership. The horrific scenes that unfolded in Charlottesville, VA should stop us in our tracks as a nation and force us to focus on what they reveal about who we are, who we want to be, and how we get there.
Like many of you, I recently directed my administration to explicitly confront some complicated racial legacies in my city. We have seen firsthand the challenges of these actions, but also embraced the transformative benefits. I hope our combined efforts have put us on a path toward equity and reconciliation. But no matter how America navigates these troubled times, the courage and conviction of our cities will ultimately chart our course.
Let’s be clear: this is a choice. Our country cannot ever be great if we are not good. There should be no place in our country for bigotry, hatred or violence against those who seek to unite our communities and our country.
We know why symbols of the Confederacy were originally erected in our cities. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. They were part of a deliberate effort to glorify the history of a movement based on terror and subjugation. For decades, they have stood in our public squares as monuments intended to celebrate a racist past and subjugate a brighter future.
Taking down monuments will not erase our history. The Confederacy’s shameful legacy will be with us, whether we memorialize it in marble or not. But as I said earlier this year, there is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it. We must instead prove that we as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile and most importantly, choose a better future for ourselves, making straight what has been crooked and making right what was wrong.
As mayors, we have the ability to send a powerful message about the future we all want for our residents. This week’s events give each of us an opportunity to take stock of our administrations and ourselves. It’s a good time to make sure that we are maximizing every resource, and using every tool at our disposal, to build more equitable and secure future for the families we represent.
I encourage each of you to lead your community through a conversation on race and equity. This process can be painful, and I know it may feel like you’re choosing the path of most resistance. But your city, and our entire union, will be stronger for it.
Mayors have led this country through some of its toughest times. While the news and tone of the day feels dark, I’m confident we can once again rise to the occasion and lead America to a future we’re proud to leave our children.
I pledge to you today the full resources of the US Conference of Mayors to help you unite your community. As President of this conference, I will commit to do everything we can to stand up to those who seek to divide us and perpetuate hate. If you choose to do the same in your city, we will stand with you.
Mayor of New Orleans