South Bend, Ind., city councilman-elect Henry Davis Jr. said on Thursday that it “is not an excuse at this point” for mayor Pete Buttigieg to claim he was “slow to realize” desegregation in city schools had not been successful during an interview Thursday, in the latest African-American criticism leveled at the Democratic presidential candidate.
On Sunday, Buttigieg said during a campaign stop in North Carolina that “I worked for years under the illusion that our schools in my city were integrated.”
Buttigieg: "I have to confess that I was slow to realize — I worked for years under the illusion that our schools in my city were integrated… But what I slowly realized… if you looked at the county, almost all of the diversity of our youths was in a single school district." pic.twitter.com/ijGcT7uFJZ
— The Hill (@thehill) December 1, 2019
Davis, who ran against Buttigieg for mayor in 2015, said in an interview with Hill.TV that Buttigieg’s remark sounded contrived.
“It sounded like that he wasn’t from here,” Davis said of Buttigieg, who was born and raised in South Bend. “It sounds like that he never served as mayor or in elected office in South Bend. It sounded like someone that was just reading something from a book. Look, he’s not ready for the White House. . . . It’s almost crazy, to say the least. I think that he has maintained an idea that he’s not accountable for not knowing something, and I think that is really poor on his end, given that he is running for the highest office in our land.”
Responding to Davis’s criticism, a source within the Buttigieg campaign told National Review that Buttigieg is working on education reform as part of his campaign platform, including a federal preclearance policy to keep school district zoning changes from causing racial disparities.
Davis cited “double-digit unemployment” and “high crime” as problems plaguing South Bend’s black residents that he said Buttigieg hadn’t done enough to fix. “His only motivation or thought of housing improvements is to demolish homes in black areas,” Davis said, referencing Buttigieg’s “1000 houses in 1000 days” plan to combat blight, which critics say disproportionately affected underprivileged minorities.
Last month, the Buttigieg campaign came under fire for allegedly suggesting that black leaders had endorsed its “Douglass Plan” for African Americans when they hadn’t. The campaign has disputed the allegations as it tries to shore up African-American support.