What does Mitch Landrieu discuss about the treatment of black people and slavery in "In the Shadow of Statues"?

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Mitch Landrieu was the mayor of New Orleans from 2010 to 2018, and in that role, was active in attempts to remove Confederate memorial statues from public spaces in the city. His 2018 book, In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History, is an account of that struggle, but more generally an examination of how central race was- and is- to Southern history and society. In short, Landrieu points out that the monuments, and the passion with which some Southerners defend them, is evidence that the South has really never gotten past the racial attitudes that undergirded slavery. They rose again with Jim Crow (the context in which the statues were erected in the first place,) they were behind the "Southern strategy" employed by conservative politicians in the second half of the twentieth century, and they are still with the South. Landrieu, in short, advocates for an open, honest reckoning with Southern history, one that cuts through the Lost Cause mythology that the statues represent. As he writes in his introduction:

The statues were not honoring history, or heroes. They were created as political weapons, part of an effort to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity. They helped distort history, putting forward a myth of Southern chivalry, the gallant "Lost Cause," to distract from the terror tactics that deprived African-Americans of fundamental rights...

Having come to terms with Southern history himself, Landrieu attempts to use this book to help fellow Southern readers do the same. The mayor argues that the violence and injustices done to African-Americans, historically and in the present day, are directly related to the ideas reflected by statues like the ones removed under his watch. Dismantling racism means accepting its reality in the South and beyond.

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