South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg said on Tuesday that "all of American life takes place under the shadows" of racism while speaking at an event organized in Chicago by Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.
"All of American life takes place under these shadows, not as some distant, historical artifact, but as a burning present reality that hurts everyone and everything it touches," Buttigieg said after outlining how racism persists in police departments, health care, and public schools. "And if we do not tackle the problem of racial inequality in my lifetime, I am convinced that it will up-end the American project in my lifetime."
Buttigieg's comments come in the middle of a mayoral crisis that stemmed from a July 14 incident where a white police officer shot and killed 54-year-old Eric Logan, who was black. The officer claimed that Logan had been attempting to rob parked cars and had come at him with a knife. The officer failed to turn on his body camera during the encounter, contra SBPD policy.
The mayor's handling of the situation has generated scrutiny from both South Bend's police city government and the black community, with several leaders from both groups telling the Washington Free Beacon that Buttigieg should resign as mayor and stop running for president, calling him racially "tone deaf."
Buttigieg has faced race-related scandals since he took office in January of 2012. One of his first actions as mayor was to demote the popular black Police Chief Darryl Boykins, amid concerns that Boykins was wiretapping officers whom he believed were using racial slurs behind his back.
This decision generated much criticism locally, and at the time, Jackson considered visiting South Bend to speak out against racism in the police department. Jackson did not visit, but several representatives of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition picketed South Bend in 2012. They called for Buttigieg's impeachment until the mayor met with them and negotiated with their demands.