Addressing race in Bronzeville forum, Buttigieg says: ‘We have to act’

It was impossible to ignore, though, that the crowd of 1,000 at the Harold Washington Cultural Center in the historically black community was overwhelmingly white.

SHARE Addressing race in Bronzeville forum, Buttigieg says: ‘We have to act’
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Presidential candidate South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg hosts a “grassroots event” at Harold Washington Cultural Center on the South Side, Tuesday evening, Aug. 20, 2019.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg brought his presidential campaign to Bronzeville Tuesday night, addressing a host of issues related to race in the United States.

“We need to act on the knowledge that this country is being dragged down by racial inequality,” Buttigieg said. “It is making the entire American project vulnerable. We have to act.”

Before taking questions from audience members, Buttigieg touted his “Douglass Plan,” named for the ex-slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, which he said would work to end “systemic racism.”

“We’re going to invest in the knowledge that the American Black experience might as well put you in a different country, and we cannot allow that to persist,” he said. “You cannot just replace hundreds of years of racist policy with a neutral policy and say, ‘OK, should be good to go now,’ and expect inequity will work itself out in the system.”

It was impossible to ignore, though, that the crowd of 1,000 at the Harold Washington Cultural Center was overwhelmingly white.

Pastor Chris Harris of Bright Star Church introduced Buttigieg to the stage and noted the largely monochromatic nature of the audience in his warm-up address.

“Next time we have this kind of event, especially in Bronzeville — clap if you agree — we need some more black faces,” Harris said to rousing applause. “Next time, you can’t leave your black and brown friends at home.”

Buttigieg was asked by Q&A moderator Channyn Lynne Parker — a trans activist who is the manager of external relations for Howard Brown Health and a board member of Equality Illinois — what he’s learned so far from communities of color while on the campaign trail.

“The biggest thing that I’ve learned is that good intentions are not enough,” he said. “We’ve got to have a conversation, the same conversation with white audiences that we have with audiences of color.”

Buttigieg also fielded questions concerning safety in schools in the age of mass shootings, immigration reform, voting rights, the opioid crisis and LGBTQ rights in the military.

Before arriving in Bronzeville, Buttigieg attended another fundraiser at the downtown offices of Clayco, a construction company whose chairman and CEO was a major supporter of former President Barack Obama.

Contributing: Lynn Sweet

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Presidential candidate South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg greets supporters after a forum at Harold Washington Cultural Center on the South Side on Tuesday evening,

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

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