Facing Racial Tensions, Buttigieg Camp Surveyed Staff About Microaggressions

Possible microaggressions included being interrupted and being left off email chains.

Pete Buttigieg / Getty Images
January 28, 2020

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg's campaign sent a survey to minority staffers asking them to list any "microaggressions" they suffered on the job.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Buttigieg national engagement coordinator Raven Hollins circulated a survey to employees in January after numerous staffers of color reported "feeling disrespected" by colleagues. Hollins asked that only minority staffers fill out the survey. "The answers are anonymous and will be used to inform our white colleagues about privilege and microaggressions," Hollins wrote.

The list of microaggressions included "Been interrupted / talked over," "Left off a relevant email chain," "Someone else taking credit for your idea or insight (even accidentally)," and "Been called the name of a different staff member of color."

The Times reports that the survey came because minority staffers frequently felt "disrespected" by white co-workers. Some Hispanic employees, for example, were asked by white managers to translate text into Spanish even though they did not speak the language.

The former South Bend mayor's campaign held a staff diversity meeting the day after Hollins's survey. It quickly became emotional, with some staffers reduced to tears. Employees were particularly distressed about a fundraiser Buttigieg planned to hold with a Chicago lawyer who helped suppress the release of a video of police killing a black teenager, the Times reported. The campaign had ignored warnings from members of its vetting team, only to back away from the lawyer's donations after a public backlash.

The racial tension within Buttigieg's campaign comes as the candidate has struggled to gain support among minority voters and prominent Democrats of color. A Monday Morning Consult poll found Buttigieg polling at 9 percent with white primary voters nationwide, but only 4 percent among Hispanic primary voters and 2 percent among black primary voters.

Buttigieg's campaign drew criticism in November for touting the endorsement of several black South Carolinians who did not actually endorse the campaign and using a stock photo of a Kenyan woman to illustrate Buttigieg's plan for "black America."