Mayor Buttigieg, Role Models, and Race

The Story:

In recent days, words spoken by Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, 8 years ago have come back to haunt him as he continues his campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States.


In 2011, in connection with his campaign for a first term as Mayor of South Bend, Buttigieg appeared on a television program and discussed both education and racial inequality. He said that part of the reason for the extent of the latter is that in lower-income, minority neighborhoods, children don’t see education “work.” They don’t have the right incentive to hit the books because “there isn’t some one who they know personally” whose life “testifies to the value of education.”

The clip resurfaced recently, and it enraged Michael Harriot, a writer for a black publication, The Root. Harriot said that it proves that Buttigieg is a “lying MF.” The real problems have nothing to do with an absence of appropriate incentivizing role models in ‘the hood.’

The Thing to Know:

Buttigieg telephoned Harriot soon after the essay appeared. As Harriot has since relayed the conversation, Buttigieg did not “want to fight” and he showed a commendable willingness to listen. Other observers have since noted that such a phone call was the best move available for Buttigieg to defuse this attack as a possible threat to his campaign.

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