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Pete Buttigieg rolls out a plan to combat racial inequality

Elizabeth Myong
Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg rolled out a plan on Thursday that will address racial inequality and systemic racism against black Americans.
Democratic presidential candidate and Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg speaks to a crowd at the African American Leadership Council on June 6, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg rolled out a plan on Thursday to address racial inequality and systemic racism against black Americans. The plan was announced as his campaign struggles to earn the support of black voters, which could be key to his winning the Democratic nomination.

The 18-page "Douglass Plan," named after abolitionist Frederick Douglass, outlines Buttigieg's proposal, which includes investing $25 billion in historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, and directing $10 billion toward black entrepreneurs.

The plan says it is a "comprehensive and intentional dismantling of racist structures and systems combined with an equally intentional and affirmative investment of unprecedented scale in the freedom and self-determination of Black Americans."

The plan also details how Buttigieg would address health disparities in black communities, advocate for criminal justice reform by legalizing marijuana and expunging some past convictions, expand access to voting, eliminate racial gerrymandering and improve housing conditions for black Americans.

The Douglass Plan also aims to increase federal funding to Title I schools and preserve black history with increased funding to the arts and protection of cultural sites. It would also eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing and abolish the death penalty.

In an interview with NPR, Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said the Douglass Plan is not a substitute for reparations.

"I think [the Douglass Plan] does not take the place of the conversation around reparations," he said. "I also support passing H.R. 40. I would sign it, which would create a commission to look at reparations. But I do think that this is also restorative, in the same way that reparations is intended to be."

Other Democratic candidates, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, have also voiced their support of reparations. In June, Booker and Harris co-sponsored Senate legislation to formally study and recommend steps toward reparations.

The release of the Douglass Plan follows intense criticism Buttigieg has faced since June 16, when a black man was fatally shot by a white South Bend police officer. Buttigieg was criticized by the family of the deceased, Eric Logan, for failing to hold the officer accountable.

Buttigieg's rift with the black community has affected his campaign.

According to a Quinnipiac poll published July 2 and conducted after the first presidential debates, Buttigieg received 0% of the black vote. Despite what many deemed a successful debate performance, Buttigieg fell behind candidates former Vice President Joe Biden, Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Booker, Warren, Marianne Williamson, and Beto O'Rourke when it came to black voters.

Buttigieg ranked fifth among the Democratic candidates with 6% of the vote in a Morning Consult poll published on July 9.

Before the debates, Buttigieg ranked fourth among the Democratic hopefuls, with 7% of the vote, according to a June 23 poll from Morning Consult.

During the debate, Buttigieg was asked about his handling of the South Bend shooting. He admitted that when it came to diversifying his police force, which is "6 percent black in a city that is 26 percent black," he said, "I couldn't get it done."

"My community is in anguish right now because of an officer-involved shooting, a black man, Eric Logan, killed by a white officer," he said. "And I'm not allowed to take sides until the investigation comes back. The officer said he was attacked with a knife, but he didn't have his body camera on. It's a mess. And we're hurting."

Buttigieg has also faced criticism for demoting South Bend's first black police chief, Darryl Boykins, in 2012, after it was discovered that he made secret recordings of police officers who allegedly made racist comments. Boykins later received a $75,000 settlement from the city after suing over Buttigieg's "racial animus." Meanwhile, the officers recorded in the secret tapes received a $500,000 settlement from the city.

Booker announced his "baby bonds" plan, which was also created to support black Americans, in April. It aims to improve the country's racial wealth gap by creating a $1,000 savings account for every child born in the United States.

In Booker's plan, the government would add $2,000 every year, which would be adjusted based on family income. The average payment to black children under his plan would be $1,193 a year, compared with $628 for white children, CNBC reported.

On July 6, Harris presented her plan to close the racial wealth gap with a $100 billion investment in black homeownership.

The Buttigieg campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.