July 8, 2019
At a July 4 campaign event in Iowa, Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg emphatically reproached a man for a racist comment. It was a move that brought back stunning memories of Senator John McCain during his own presidential run in 2008, when he clapped back at a woman’s suspicions about Barack Obama at a town hall meeting—saying, “I have to tell you. Senator Obama is a decent person and a person you don’t have to be scared of as president of the United States.”
The issue that provoked the biased remark in Iowa actually had originated in mid-June. At that time, Buttigieg—who currently is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana—pulled himself off the campaign trail for a few days in the wake the fatal shooting of a black man by a white police officer in his hometown. Since then, he has been asked—by both the press and the electorate—to directly address the issues of race and policing.
At the July 4 barbecue, David Begley of Omaha, Nebraska, took the spotlight when he suggested to Mayor Pete, “Just tell the black people of South Bend to stop committing crimes and doing drugs.”
Buttigieg added. “The fact that a black person is four times as likely as a white person to be incarcerated for the exact same crime is evidence there’s systemic racism. It is evidence of systemic racism, and with all due respect, sir, racism makes it harder for good police officers to do their job too.”
He went on to say, “When black people and white people are treated the same by the criminal justice system, it will be easier for white people and black people to live in this country and it will be easier for law enforcement to do their job. But racism has no place in American politics or in American law enforcement.”
However, Buttigieg has won praise—not only for saying that racism has no place in America, but for honestly admitting that he wanted to make the South Bend Police Department more diverse, but hadn’t yet accomplished the job.
Buttigieg was asked about the shooting during the first Democratic presidential debate and was asked why South Bend’s police force isn’t more diverse.
“We are hurting. I could walk you through all of the things we have done as a community,” he added. “All of the steps we took, from bias training to de-escalation, but it didn’t save the life of Eric Logan. When I look into his mother’s eyes, I have to face the fact that nothing that I say will bring him back.”
Buttigieg first acknowledged that he had “not succeeded” in recruiting a diverse police force in a tense town hall in South Bend following the shooting.
Research contact: @CNN