February 7, 2020 - Buttigieg Asked to Explain Record on Racism as South Bend Mayor

At the eighth Democratic presidential debate, moderator Linsey Davis cites that under Buttigieg’s leadership as mayor of South Bend, “a Black resident in South Bend, Indiana was four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white resident,” a number higher than the rest of the nation. She goes on, “When talking about the problem on national terms, you’ve called it ‘evidence of systemic racism.’ You were mayor for eight years, so weren’t you, in effect, the head of the system, and how do explain that increase in Black arrests under your leadership?” Buttigieg argues that drug arrests declined during his tenure but adds, “There is no question that systemic racism has penetrated to every level of our system, and my city was not immune. I took a lot of heat for discussing systemic racism with my own police department, but we’ve got to confront the fact that there is no escaping how this is part of all of our policies.” Davis, who is Black, goes on to correct Buttigieg by noting these arrests did go up during his tenure, pushing Buttigieg to respond more directly to her question. Davis was praised by many online for pursuing an answer to the question, building on praise she received for pushing candidates on issues like criminal justice reform and reparations at the third Democratic presidential debate in September. However, commenting on the Buttigieg exchange at a CAWP event in December 2020, Davis said, “I don’t think it should be expected that only the Black and Brown moderators ask the questions that apply to Black and Brown people.”