(CNSNews.com) - Speaking at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Convention in Chicago on Tuesday, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg called for nationwide reforms in policing in the wake of the police shooting of a black man in his city and laid out the case for confronting racial inequality.
“Two weeks ago, a member of our community a man named Eric Logan - a black man - lost his life at the hands of another member of our community - a white police officer. And our city’s hurt has gone beyond the grief of the family that lost one of their own. Even as we wait for outside investigators to deliver their judgment on what took place, we have a pain now that reminds us that our community lives around a chasm - a racial gulf in which black residents and white residents experience every facet of life differently,” he said.
“So at a time like this I might point to all of the hard work we’ve done over seven years around things like police professionalism and accountability, things from bias and de-escalation to changing our approach to officer recruitment training and promotion, but events compel me to acknowledge that whatever we’ve done has not been nearly enough,” Buttigieg said.
“As long as a traffic stop is a completely different experience for a black driver than it is for a white driver, we know we have not done nearly enough. We know that as long as police departments - and this is true of my own - do not reflect the community they serve in their makeup, we have not done enough,” he said.
The Democratic presidential contender also took responsibility for “the work that is left to be done” when it comes to police relations with the black community.
“We had a very emotional town hall meeting, and one woman told me that her seven-year-old grandson has already learned to fear the police. She said that’s not what’s supposed to happen in America or in Indiana or anywhere in 2019, and she’s right, and we accept responsibility. I accept responsibility for the work that is left to be done,” Buttigieg said.
The mayor said his city has redoubled its partnership with community and civil rights leaders. It’s also “tearing down walls of mistrust, reassessing policing and oversight, redesigning training, reimagining recruiting and transforming relationships,” he said.
“We are under way on that right now, and I believe in our plan, and I believe in my city, and I believe we will come together to struggle and repair and come out stronger in the broken places,” Buttigieg said.
“This will be a painful process and not only for black residents who feel left behind and lied to far too many times but also for law enforcement community that’s going to have to face some hard truths. Recently I warned newly sworn in police officers that their work takes place in the shadow of systemic racism, and the union felt it was disparaging. I intended no disparagement,” he said.
“My point was that every police officer, and for that matter every citizen, and most certainly every mayor lives within this shadow, which means everyone has to be part of the solution,” Buttigieg added.
He said he’s often asked by political pundits how he’s going to win over the black vote, but he’s not asked as often how his policies will benefit black Americans.
“Now when a white elected official or politician is confronted with racial concerns, pundits often go right to the political terms, and we see articles about a white politician’s black problem. I am asked how I’m going to earn the black vote in the polls 10 times more often than I am asked how my policies would actually benefit black Americans. It’s as if I’m being asked more about how to win that than how to deserve to win,” Buttigieg said.
“Now I’m running for president as mayor of an American city, admittedly not a traditional move, but I’m doing it because we need national politics to rediscover its local bases, to recognize that the toughest local issues both cause and reflect our most urgent national issues. We are living in shadows cast through time and across the country, and policing is only part of the story. Yes, the uniform is burdened by racism, but it goes far beyond that,” he said.
Buttigieg said if the problem of racial inequality is not confronted, it will “upend the American project.”
“All of American life takes place under these shadows, not as some distant, historical artifact, but as a burning, present reality that hurts everyone and everything it touches. And if we do not tackle the problem of racial inequality in my lifetime, I am convinced that it will upend the American project in my lifetime. It brought our country to its knees once, and if we do not act, it could again, and so I believe this is not only a matter of justice, but a matter of national survival,” he said.
Buttigieg also laid out the case of slavery reparations, comparing it to compound interest and calling for investments in the black community similar to the Marshall Plan, a U.S. program that provided aid to Western Europe following the devastation of World War II, which provided $15 billion in Europe’s rebuilding efforts.
“For some time, most of the policy debate around race has taken place under the polite assumption that if we simply delete a racist policy and replace it with a neutral policy, then inequality will sort of work its way out of the system and take care of itself. It doesn’t work that way, does it? Left without remedy, an injustice does not heal, it compounds,” he said.
“Since this is a business audience, I’m gonna take the liberty of discussing math - specifically, the mathematics of compound interest. So everyone here knows, you business leaders know that a dollar today will double into $2 in less than 20 years. By that same law of compounding, after 50 years, that one dollar has become $10. After 100 years, it’s more than $100. After 150 years, it is more than $1,000. That one dollar by way of compound interest turns into $1,000. This is true of the value over time of $1 saved, which means it is also true of the value over time of a dollar stolen.
"Every dollar plundered 150 years ago costs the descendants of the victim $1,000, so each year we do not add, the bill grows larger, and the costs cut deeper, and contrary to what some are saying in politics, what this means is that the fact that some … of this theft came a very long time ago, doesn’t make it better, it makes it worse. Now the policies that created these inequities were put in place intentionally, so that means it’s going to take intentional action to reverse those harms - bold and meaningful action that addresses not only the question of safety but also the question of prosperity, knowing that the two cannot be separated one from another.
"That is why I agree with Reverend Jackson when he said that police reforms can only be meaningful if they happen in the context of a comprehensive policy, and that’s also why I believe we need to invest in the future of black America with a plan as ambitious as the Marshall plan," Buttigieg said.