Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday said he must take charge of turning around police-community relations in his city of South Bend, Indiana, in the wake of a recent fatal shooting of a black man at the hands of a white police officer.
“Events compel me to acknowledge that whatever we’ve done has not been nearly enough,” the mayor said. “We accept responsibility — I accept responsibility — for the work that is left to be done.”
Mr. Buttigieg was speaking in Chicago at a convention of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the group founded by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
The shooting death of Eric Logan by Sgt. Ryan O’Neill has inflamed racial tensions in South Bend, with Mr. Buttigieg taking pointed questions about the incident and his response from members of his community in recent weeks.
He said he believes his city will come out stronger but acknowledged it will be a painful process.
In his speech, Mr. Buttigieg also talked up various parts of his recently announced “Douglass plan” aimed at boosting black entrepreneurship and investments in communities of color in the U.S., and touched on the issues of voting rights, criminal justice and climate change.
He also addressed the issue of reparations for slavery, which has been a hot topic on Capitol Hill.
“Every dollar plundered 150 years ago costs the descendants of the victim a thousand today,” he said. “So each year we do not act, the bill grows larger and the costs cut deeper.”
Mr. Buttigieg, who has struggled to win support from black voters in public polling on the 2020 Democratic presidential field, said the issues he’s talking about run deeper than whether he can simply earn the “black vote.”
“It’s as if I’m being asked more about how to win than how to deserve to win,” he said. “This is deeper than politics. This is not just a political problem and it is not just a police problem and it is not just my problem or my city’s problem. And it is certainly not just a black problem. This is an American problem, and it requires nationwide American solutions.”
Mr. Buttigieg told reporters ahead of his speech that if he can show his policies benefit black Americans and all Americans, the politics will start to take care of itself.
“Frankly, they need to see me in action for a longer period of time,” he said. “Look, when you’re new on the scene and you’re not from a community of color, you [have] got to work much harder in order to earn that trust, because trust is largely a function of … time. I’m committed to doing that work.”
Other presidential candidates who spoke at the convention, which runs from Friday to Tuesday, included former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and author Marianne Williamson.
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