Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg on Thursday deftly shut down a man who made a racist suggestion on how to reduce tensions between police and the black community in South Bend, Indiana.
“Just tell the black people of South Bend to stop committing crime and doing drugs,” the man proposed during a Q&A session at a Carroll County Democratic Party Fourth of July barbecue.
“Sir, I think that racism is not going to help us get out of this,” responded Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend.
The man claimed his suggestion had “nothing to do” with race.
“The fact that a black person is four times as likely as a white person to be incarcerated for the exact same crime is evidence of systemic racism,” Buttigieg said.
“It is evidence of systemic racism and with all due respect, sir, racism makes it harder for good police officers to do their job too,” he added, to the applause of the audience. “It is a smear on law enforcement.”
Someone tried to lead the crowd in a chant of “USA, USA,” but Buttigieg continued speaking.
“When black people and white people are treated the same by the criminal justice system, it will be easier for white people and black people to live in this country and it will be easier for law enforcement to do their job,” he said. “But racism has no place in American politics or American law enforcement.”
Tensions between South Bend’s black community and police rose following last month’s fatal shooting of a black man by a white officer.
Buttigieg admitted during last week’s Democratic primary debate that he had not been successful in creating a police force that reflected the city’s diverse population.
“I couldn’t get it done,” the mayor said. “My community is in anguish right now because of an officer shooting. It’s a mess, and we’re hurting.”