WASHINGTON (NBC News) — Working to prove himself to African American voters, Pete Buttigieg is releasing an 18-page plan Thursday to improve conditions and opportunity for black Americans on everything from the health care, education and criminal justice systems to entrepreneurship and access to credit.
The wide-ranging plan constitutes Buttigieg’s initial version of a proposal for reparations for slavery. His campaign says it views it as a “complement” to H.R. 40, legislation working its way through the House to create a commission to craft a national reparations proposal. The legislation is widely supported by the 2020 Democratic candidates including Buttigieg, and Sen. Cory Booker has introduced a similar bill in the Senate.
“We have lived in the shadow of systemic racism for too long,” Buttigieg said in a statement announcing the plan, citing “a rise in white nationalism” and disparate educational and health outcomes for white and black Americans. “That should make us all wonder how the richest country on earth can allow this to happen under our noses.”
Buttigieg’s plan would:
- Seek to boost educational opportunities by offering free tuition at public schools for low-income students; canceling debts from underperforming for-profit colleges; and spending more on Title I schools.
- Combat the wealth gap by directing 25 percent of federal contracting dollars to small business owners from “underserved communities;” forgiving college debt for entrepreneurs who start and maintain small businesses that employ at least 3 people; and boosting investment in minority-owned banks.
- Address a criminal justice system Buttigieg calls “fundamentally racist” by ending mandatory minimums and incarceration for drug possession; cutting other sentences; legalizing marijuana; giving all former felons their voting rights back immediately; and creating a clemency commission independent from the Justice Department.
- Create “Health Equity Zones” in areas of the U.S. with health disparities to identify the causes in those areas and invest funding conditional on progress in narrowing those gaps.
- Combat voter suppression by creating automatic voter registration; normalizing online and same-day registration; making Election Day a holiday; giving Washington, D.C., full representation; and getting rid of the Electoral College.
Although Buttigieg has floated some of the individual proposals before, his presidential campaign is putting a spotlight on the comprehensive plan this week as he works to address growing concerns that his difficulty appealing to black voters may be too significant an obstacle for his upstart campaign to overcome.
Buttigieg had already been struggling to expand his support to include African Americans and other minorities when a crisis erupted last month over race and policing in South Bend, Indiana, where Buttigieg is mayor. After a white officer shot and killed a black man, Buttigieg was confronted by anger, mistrust and frustration from many black constituents who held him responsible. He eventually conceded failure during the first presidential debates in diversifying the police force and executing a body camera policy for police.
The Douglass Plan: A Comprehensive Investment in the Empowerment of Black America
Mayor Pete’s Frederick Douglass Plan to Empower Black America
The decisions we make in the next four years will determine America’s path for the next forty. And a great deal of the progress we make–on everything from increasing economic freedom to confronting climate disruption–will depend on whether we tackle racial inequality in our lifetime. For all our country’s forward movement, Black people in America are still disproportionately excluded from systems of social protection, economic uplift, and representative democracy while facing shorter lifespans, lower educational attainment, and dramatic overcriminalization and incarceration compared to their white counterparts. This is why Mayor Pete Buttigieg is proposing The Douglass Plan…Read Full Document
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