Mayor Pete Has Smoke In His City
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (affectionately known as Mayor Pete) has taken some real heat over the past few weeks because of the killing of an unarmed Black man in South Bend by a White police officer, officers who turned their police cameras off. I don’t mean to skip the death of the young man. While the young man’s death is the catalyst for my essay, and I don’t want to exploit his death the way mainstream exploits Black pain and death. I want to talk about Mayor Pete and his inability to connect with Black people in meaningful ways. Mayor Pete is a reactive leader with the concerns of Black issues in his community. The reaction in South Bend to Mayor Pete’s inaction highlights the pitfalls of reactionary leadership styles.
Initially, when I wrote my 2020 political review of Mayor Pete, I was one the fence, waiting for him to reveal himself to me. I thought he was a good guy (at least he read fairly well on paper), despite inheriting bad people and corrupt systems and institutions. I was a tad bit suspect of Mayor Pete at first because he had the same White apathy that infects so many leaders. The Mayor had the mindset and policy style like if his house isn’t on fire, it’s really not a big deal. The laid back style many Whites have who aren’t directly or indirectly impacted by racism.
Well, he can’t have White apathy running for President and in need of Black votes, especially when cops are killing Black folks in his city. I’m sure it hurts his feelings to have angry people hurl insults at him, to be disrespected, talked down to, talked over, and mistrusted for something he didn’t do.
Congratulations, he now knows what it feels like to be Black and hated for things he didn’t do.
Addressing the Elephant in the Room
Mayor Pete has had to address his issues with minorities in his own hometown, and the truth has been ugly. But he attempted to rise to the challenge.
Mayor Pete talks sensibly about race and America’s racist history in a way no other candidate has, and I respect and appreciate it. I’m tired of politicians lying and tip-toeing around race and inequity. They are skim and dodge questions, talking to us about race and inequity in pie in the sky Hypotheticals and patch work theories of change. The same old crap. Mayor Pete didn’t do that.
Instead, he told the truth about America for a change. He also took responsibility for the action’s of his police department. Mayor Pete acknowledges his White privilege. Mayor Pete relays the message with America it’s oppressed and over-policed Black people and People of Color. He discusses racism in America.
He gave an interview on MSNBC to discuss systemic racism. The relevant part starts at 1:16 minutes into the video.
Racism and Systemic Problems Require Systemic Overhauls
We can’t legislate our racism and inequitable governance away. It’s like putting a band-aid on cancer. That bandaid won’t cure cancer. It would be as ineffective and a waste of time and resources. Thinking we can legislate our way out of racism is a similar way of thinking.
The entire system called America is broken. There isn’t an institution in America that works fairly, or equitably. Our federal, state, and local government have even fought to keep things broken and not working for Blacks and People of Color. Whites created these systems and they need to be dismantled and replaced by Whites. Mayor Pete’s assessment of America’s criminal justice system problem was spot on, but we overlooked it because the media loves sensationalizing Black trauma and creating the division in our communities. The media also loves White men, and they will disregard a Black man’s pain to protect a White man’s legacy. It’s how we continue to miss big picture.
Institutional biases, oppression, racism, and inequity is a part of American history. Mayor Pete owned it. He notes this nation’s racist systems and institutions need to be dismantled. I’m happy he has the eyes to see it, and I’m ecstatic he has the ears to hear the petitions of this nation’s most oppressed group of people. But I’m also wary.
I’m wary because Mayor Pete hasn’t shown he has had the ability or fortitude to change his own small local government.
Mayor Pete Hasn’t Shown Himself Worthy To Be America’s President
I’m skeptical of Mayor Pete because of his lack of demonstrated experience navigating racial discourse, racial injustice, and racial/community inequity. After writing my political review I decided against giving him two thumbs up because of the problems within his city. He fired the city’s first Black police chief who made allegations of racism against White cops within the department (with audio recordings to support his allegation). Police in Mayor Pete’s police department were caught on tape and heard in person according to the chief of police making racist comments about the same people they were to protect. White cops got to keep their jobs, the city’s first Black police chief gets fired for trying to ensure his department had integrity and able to gain public trust.
There were also complaints about the lack of community development efforts in Black communities compared to the White communities. I started thinking big picture, and Mayor Pete would not cut the mustard.
I realized Mayor Pete was young, White, “highly educated” (the term highly educated is subjective these days), uber privileged (he’s been grooming himself for big things in political circles), and relatively untested when it comes to dealing with the lives of others not tied to duty or his career aspirations. This is my life, and I don’t have time for putting it into the hands of a man who can’t get jobs done. Mayor Pete is not ready to be President of the Un-United States.
I’m questioning every White political leader after America so callously and recklessly elected Donald Trump to be President, giving no thought about the impact of their choice. I’m questioning why leaders are running, and their motives matter. So does their pasts. If you can’t take care of the toilet bowl at your own house, how can you fix mines?
I wouldn’t hire an electrician to wire my home who has a public track record of doing work that caused the homes of past customers to burn to the ground. That would be stupid of me, right?
Well, many people vote for people who have a track record of being unsuccessful because they look good, paid for their degrees (or earned them), and punched all the right White tickets to get to the upper-echelons of White privilege and White power. That’s stupid too, right?
Mayor Pete hasn’t showed me he can handle South Bend after his 6–7 years in office. How can I expect him to oversee the entire U.S. Department of Justice without bias, where he’d be overseeing the Miami-Dade police Department, NYPD, LAPD, and some other police departments with histories of police corruption and misconduct? How can I trust Mayor Pete will see things equitably when he hasn’t done it on a smaller stage?
We Need a Radical Person of Action
We need a leader who will do more than just “see” America’s problems, corrupt systems, and injustice. I need to see someone who can indiscriminately call out White people on their extensive history of privilege, and hold them accountable for the huge disparities among Blacks, People of Color. I need a fixer, not a patcher.
Most times things are bad for us because they have cheated us, beat us down, and robbed us for centuries. This is fixing time. It’s time out for talking points, plans, platitudes and excuses like, “I couldn’t get it done.” I expect resistance to changing social and economic order changes from White people to be an obstacle for a Black leader or Leader of Color, but not a privileged White man who has all the power and authority America can bless a White man with.
If you’re a White a White man unable or unwilling to change White systems and confront White Supremacy head on today, you’re not the White man for the White House in 2020
We. Can’t. Continue. Practicing. White Supremacy.
Seeing the bad in the system is easy for White people. Mayor Pete did a great job seeing the bad and telling us the system is the problem. My problem is the system isn’t changing because White people don’t like rocking their systemic and institutional boats. Changing systems is hard. Tearing down the current system means you would have to admit something was wrong with it, and White folks seem to have a hard time even admitting something is wrong let alone changing the inequitable system of governance and policing they’ve created.
Mayor Pete hasn’t given me a system rebuilding plan. Really, no 2020 candidate has. And since none of them have, I’m keeping my options open. Mayor Pete is the first of many candidates I’m officially canceling for 2020. The one thing I am certain of is that it’s time to reconsider our willingness to relinquish our power to both liberal and conservative White men, and those who have patchwork policy mindsets and governance styles.
The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 by White men, many of whom were slave owners. Since 1776, every year except for 8 of those years, we’ve been governed by White men.
We are still struggling with race and otherness is America under the guidance and misdirection of White men. Slavery, Jim Crow, Civil Rights, Voting Rights, Housing Rights, internment camps, internment camps, school and community segregation, inequality and inequity in America were at the hands of our founders, and their descendants, and those who have followed in the footsteps of our founding White Supremacists.
With the ushering in of Donald Trump and unchecked, “in-your-face,” White Supremacy, we must examine everyone, every vote, and every short-term, intermediate, and long-term intention of leaders asking for our votes. Mayor Pete had the audacity to tell a Black woman inquiring about engaging the Black community in his city he wasn’t asking for her vote. He in that moment showed his White fragility. He showed the world why he isn’t ready to deal with everyday people — people in crisis, people oppressed, and Black people in pain.
Just because Black pain doesn’t look and sound like the White pain he’s probably accustomed to doesn’t mean, but our pain is less important.
It’s Not His Time
While I believe Mayor Pete is a nice man, he’s a man who has a leadership style that hasn’t showed he’s capable of dealing with the complexities and intricacies of these inequitable, racist states of America. He’s had some time already to solve some of his city’s institutional problems. His track record isn’t good, although I’m sure some will say he hasn’t had enough time.
My response to that claim is that there will never be enough time when you’re about slow, middle of the road, or patch work policies which lead to slow/no change in America. Today’s racist America needs a leader who is not afraid of White people, radical and transformative in all of his/her ways. Mediocre simply won’t do.
Mayor Pete has the potential to be a phenomenal leader, and maybe someday he could even be the President of the United States. He just can be the POTUS right now. The Mayor needs to learn how to act (literally moving his ass and his community forward). We don’t need anymore White people simply seeing systemic racism, claiming they didn’t create in one breathe while being the crutch that enables the inequity to continue in the other. If things don’t change, this place will fail. Failure costs, a lot.
This isn’t a fire drill people. America is on fire for Blacks and People of Color.
We need proactive, transformative governance which calls for ruffling White feathers, destroying all White agendas, and finally dismantling the White inequities and injustices that have plagued communities of color and Black people since we arrived to this continent. A place where all men are supposed to be created and treated equally.
Mayor Pete isn’t offering us that, and I’m not giving him my vote, whether or not he asks.