By Erick Johnson
Pete Buttigieg and Michael Bloomberg. Two Democratic presidential candidates whose last names begin with the letter B. This campaign season, it’s all about the B for Buttigieg and billionaire Bloomberg. Both are busy bombarding Blacks with big blueprints but because of their blurry backgrounds, both are backpedaling and face more backlash than blessings at the ballot box. Instead of building trust, both may be burning it up. Now, ain’t that a B?
This has been an interesting week for Democratic candidates in the presidential race. It kicked off with Bloomberg apologizing before the Christian Cultural Center, a Black megachurch in Brooklyn, for his controversial Stop and Frisk policy that stopped and searched a gazillion Blacks and Hispanics when Bloomberg was mayor from 2002 to 2013. Bloomberg got lukewarm applause before Pastor A.R. Bernard (there goes another B) asked the congregation to show some more love.
To Bloomberg, it was the beginning of a journey of healing racial wounds that he sowed years and years ago in New York. To many Blacks, it was an apology that seem disingenuous, one that came a little too late. To critics, it was another example of a rich, out of touch political candidate, pandering to Blacks for their vote. One news report, called Bloomberg the B word-that is, panda bear.
This was Bloomberg’s apology.
“Over time, I’ve come to understand something that I long struggled to admit to myself: I got something important wrong. I got something important really wrong. I didn’t understand back then the full impact that stops were having on the Black and Latino communities.
“I was totally focused on saving lives, but as we know, good intentions aren’t good enough. Now, hindsight is 20/20. But, as crime continued to come down as we reduced stops, and as it continued to come down during the next administration, to its credit, I now see that we could and should have acted sooner and acted faster to cut the stops.
“I wish we had. I’m sorry that we didn’t. But, I can’t change history. However today, I want you to know that I realize back then I was wrong, and I’m sorry.”
After his apology, Bloomberg reportedly called Reverend Al Sharpton who replied, “my position is, clearly, it’s going to take more than one speech for people to forgive and forget.”
Then there’s Buttigieg, the young, rising star and mayor of South Bend who is at the top of the polls in Iowa. In August, it was all about the B thing again for Buttigieg as he held a rally in Chicago’s predominately Black Bronzeville neighborhood. Whites flooded the Harold Washington Cultural Center, which seats 1,000 people. A Crusader reporter counted 14 Black people at the event.
With few Black voters attending his rallies and supporting him, Buttigieg still lags behind another B, Joe Biden. As vice president, Biden was baptized and built Black appeal when he served under Barack Obama decades after he blessed a crime bill in 1994 that booted millions of Black brothers behind bars. The other B candidate, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders voted for it.
Still, Biden is the front runner among Blacks. To win over Black voters, Buttigieg this week pledged to give $50 billion to HBCUs should he win the White House. That’s on top of his Douglass Plan to address criminal justice reforms that would help people of color.
But Buttigieg lately has been looking desperate in several moves aimed at winning over Black voters. Buttigieg used a photo of a Black woman from Kenya on his web page to promote his Douglass Plan for African Americans. The woman was never asked and didn’t know about Buttigieg’s Douglass Plan. The photo was taken down.
Then there is the bogus Monmouth Poll in South Carolina, where 400 Blacks were claimed to have been surveyed. The poll said Buttigieg had one percent of Black voters. The news was promoted in an OpEd piece in the Post and Courier. Many Black prominent officials who didn’t support Buttigieg were stunned to see their names in the opinion piece. On November 11, the Washington Post reported that “Buttigieg persuaded hundreds of prominent Black South Carolinians to sign onto the plan even if they are not supporting his candidacy.”
As president, Buttigieg promises to give 25 percent of contracts to minority-owned businesses. The prominent investigative online publication the Intercept, dropped a story on November 20 that said Buttigieg as mayor of South Bend, Indiana gave just three percent of the city’s contracts to minority-owned businesses. South Bend’s population is 26.4 percent Black.
With his calm demeanor and youthful energy, Buttgieg and his supporters have embraced comparison to former President Barack Obama. But as many remain bewitched by Buttigieg’s spirit and drive, Blacks in his hometown are waiting for the tapes to be released seven years after Buttigieg demoted the city’s first Black police chief-who later quit and sued the force- after siding with white officers who allegedly made racist comments during a recorded conversation. Buttigieg won’t release the tapes, but a judge ruled that case would be decided by a trial.
And who was the Black police chief who Buttigieg fired? Darryl Boykins. Ain’t that a B?