Buttigieg made his controversial comments during the most recent presidential debate where he admitted that he did not have to endure discrimination because of his skin, but he could relate to Black voters in another way.
“While I do not have the experience of ever having been discriminated against because of the color of my skin,” Buttigieg began, “I do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country, turning on the news and seeing my own rights come up for debate, and seeing my rights expanded by a coalition of people like me and people not at all like me.”
“I welcome the challenge of connecting with Black voters in America who don’t yet know me.”
Mayor Pete Buttigieg responds to Sen. Kamala Harris’s question on “where he’s been, and what he’s going to do” for the African American community. pic.twitter.com/f30B2ltOnM
— Pod Save America (@PodSaveAmerica) November 21, 2019
There was sharp criticism almost immediately following his comments, including a critique from Sen. Kamala Harris, who called his comments “not productive” and “naive.”
The Indiana mayor has not been hugely favored among Black voters despite his recent lead in Iowa polls and New Hampshire polls. According to the Washington Post, he trails badly in South Carolina, the first primary state with a sizable African American population with less than 1 percent support among black Democrats there.
Buttigieg is also not very popular among Black voters in his own constituency as mayor of South Bend, Ind. Earlier this year, Buttigieg’s concern for the Black community came into question following the police-involved killing of, Eric Logan, a Black man, as it had been revealed that Black community members had previously complained about the officer-involved, Ryan O’Neill, for whom Buttigieg had not been quick to discipline.
Oliver Davis, a black council member in South Bend, said he did not agree with Buttigieg’s comparison.
“When you see me, you would know that I’m African American from day one,” Davis said. “When someone is gay or a lesbian, unless they tell or they are seen in certain situations, then no one is going to know that. They are able to build their résumés and build their careers.”
According to the Washington Post, Rev. Al Sharpton, who has been a supporter of Buttigieg claiming him to be misunderstood, said that the young mayor has a long way to go.
2020 Presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been facing backlash recently because of his past remarks on black youth and education. I am sharing my thoughts on his statement on #MSNBCLive w/ Katy Turr. pic.twitter.com/tPI5DbtQs9
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) November 27, 2019
“I think Kamala had a point, and I understood what she was saying,” Sharpton said. “He’s evolving. Do I think he’s where he needs to be? No.”
Rev. William Barber II, minister of the Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C, told the Washington Post that he believed it should not be about who has been discriminated the most, but about dealing with the issues.
“Let’s not get caught up in who understands discrimination the most,” Barber said. “Let’s deal with the real issue, which is that the same entities that are against gay folks are the same entities who are against black folks and that we ought to be united in fighting discrimination in any form it arises.”