Ex-New Orleans mayor leads initiative calling for a reckoning with racism's legacy

Mitch Landrieu on racism in the South
Mitch Landrieu on racism in the South 05:54

Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu helped lead the charge to remove Confederate statues in his city. Now he's leading an initiative that calls for a reckoning with the legacy of racism. 

The non-profit organization E Pluribus Unum works to achieve social and racial justice in the United States. The effort's name is taken from the U.S. motto, "out of many, one."

The organization's first report, "Divided by Design," offers a comprehensive look at race and class issues in the South.

"There is a big difference the way people see the world," Landrieu said Wednesday on "CBS This Morning." "Everybody wants equal opportunity for themselves. They want their kids to have a better life. The African-American community views the obstacles very differently from the white community."

Landrieu and his team talked to more than 800 people from 28 communities in 13 states. Some of the key insights from the report included: many white people don't understand the scale of racism, Americans continue to live segregated lives, and there's a need to build a shared future.

"White folks that responded to the survey think that racism is just an individual act of malice to another person that looks different from them. African-Americans say that's not our experience," Landrieu said. "While they accept that as a form of racism because they feel it every day, they say the institutions that we have are still baked with institutional designs, and so the point is the country is the way it is because we designed it this way. And so if we want a different outcome, we have to redesign it. So criminal justice reform, for example, would fit into this. Education reform, how you gerrymander legislative districts, etc."

He said in order to advance the conversation on race, people need to spend time with one another and "see each other's humanity."

"You have to do this on the ground. You have to do it family to family, neighborhood to neighborhood, church to church, team to team, and community to community," he said.

While some white people may say they can't be held accountable for something that happened 150 years ago, Landrieu said he tells people, "Listen, it may not be your fault, but it is certainly your responsibility."

Asked whether he supports former Vice President Joe Biden, who's running in the crowded Democratic field of presidential candidates, Landrieu said, "I haven't endorsed anybody yet, but people have asked me. And I think he is our best chance to do what I think the country really wants to do, which is turn a corner and have a new president, so that we can reclaim what America really is supposed to be."