(CNSNews.com) - Asked why he is the most qualified candidate to address the nation's racial "divide," Beto O'Rourke slammed President Trump as a white supremacist and said the United States should mark its founding, not on July 4, 1776, but on August 20, 1619, "When the first kidnapped African was brought to this country against his will."
Here is the question posed by ABC's Linsey David and O'Rourke's response at Thursday's ABC/Univision debate in Houston:
Since we're here at an HBCU, I'd like to start with young black voters. Several recent polls indicate their number-one concern is racism. This campus, this state, and this nation are still raw from that racially motivated attack on Latinos in El Paso.
Now, we know that the racial divide started long before President Trump and President Obama, but each of you on this stage has said that President Trump has made that divide worse. Congressman O'Rourke, coming to you first, why are you the most qualified candidate to address this divide?
You know, I called this out in no uncertain terms on August 3rd and every day since then. And I was talking about it long before then, as well.
Racism in America is endemic. It is foundational. We can mark the creation of this country not at the Fourth of July, 1776, but August 20, 1619, when the first kidnapped African was brought to this country against his will and in bondage, and as a slave built the greatness and the success and the wealth that neither he nor his descendants would ever be able to fully participate in and enjoy.
We have to be able to answer this challenge. And it is found in our education system, where in Texas, a 5-year-old child in kindergarten is five times as likely to be disciplined or suspended or expelled based on the color of their skin.
In our health care system, where there's a maternal mortality crisis three times as deadly for women of color, or the fact that there's 10 times the wealth in white America than there is in black America.
I'm going to follow (Rep.) Sheila Jackson Lee's lead and sign into law a reparations bill that will allow us to address this at its foundation.
But we will also call out the fact that we have a white supremacist in the White House and he poses a mortal threat to people of color all across this country.
Other candidates weighed in.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) called President Trump a "racist," adding, "but there's no red badge of courage for calling him that. Racism exists. The question isn’t who isn’t a racist. It’s who is and isn’t doing something about racism."
Booker pointed to a criminal justice system "that is so racially biased, we have more African-Americans under criminal supervision today than all the slaves in 1850.
"We have to come at this issue attacking systemic racism, having the courage to call it out, and having a plan to do something about it. If I am president of the United States, we will create an office in the White House to deal with the problem of white supremacy and hate crimes," Booker said.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg called for a "systemic approach to dismantle" racism.
"[W]e know that the generational theft of the descendants of slaves is part of why everything from housing to education to health to employment basically puts us in two different countries.
“I have proposed the most comprehensive vision to tackle systemic racism in every one of these areas, marshaling as many resources as went into the Marshall plan that rebuilt Europe, but this time, a Douglass plan that we invest right here at home, to make sure that we’re not only dealing with things like the over-incarceration of black Americans, but also black solutions, entrepreneurship, raising to 25 percent the target for the federal government to do business with minority-owned businesses, investing in HBCUs that are training and educating the next generation of entrepreneurs."