Pete Buttigieg has a message for white liberals who decry racism: "Good intentions are not going to be enough."
The Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana, mayor is combating perceptions that he's out of touch with black people and will struggle to win their votes. On Thursday, he unveiled his most detailed proposals yet, which he says are aimed at addressing the systemic racism that affects the black community. And he's pairing that with candid talk aimed at white Democrats.
"White Democratic voters want to do the right thing but maybe haven't fully thought about what that means or what that requires of us," Buttigieg said in an Associated Press interview. "The reality is America as a whole is worse off when these inequities exist."
Buttigieg, 37, was virtually unknown in national politics when he launched his campaign but has gained ground with a compelling narrative as a young, gay military veteran offering generational change in the White House. He raised $24.8 million during the second quarter, a stunning sum that topped other leading Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
But his rise has coincided with questions about his handling of race in South Bend. He was criticized for firing the city's first black police chief early in his career and has admitted he hasn't done enough to improve the lives of black residents.
Buttigieg left the campaign trail last month after a white police officer fatally shot a black man the officer said was armed with a knife.
Some South Bend residents criticized him for being more focused on his presidential prospects than developments back home.
Under scrutiny, Buttigieg has been aggressive in directly tackling racism on the campaign trail. In Iowa last week, he shot down a question from a white man who suggested the best way to address crime in his hometown is to "tell the black people of South Bend to stop committing crime and doing drugs."
Buttigieg responded that "racism is not going to get us out of this problem."
"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 of systemic racism," he said. "With all due respect, sir, racism makes it harder for good police officers to do their job, too. It's a smear on law enforcement."
In the AP interview, Buttigieg said he's in a unique position to talk about race.
"As the urban mayor who, for better or worse, may be the white candidate called on most often to discuss matters of race in this campaign, I want to make sure that every kind of audience is very clear on where I stand and, most importantly, what it is we can actually do," he said.