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South Bend Pastor Discusses Pete Buttigieg's Racial Equality Measures

Jul 11, 2019
Originally published on July 11, 2019 6:17 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg will need the support of black voters if he wants to become the next president. Early in his term as mayor of South Bend, Ind., Buttigieg had an ambitious housing initiative called 1,000 Houses in 1,000 Days, targeting vacant and abandoned homes. The plan demolished houses within the African American community in South Bend and left a lot of people upset. Now, Mayor Buttigieg is out with an ambitious plan to empower black Americans around the country.

So what will black residents of South Bend make of it? We've got one view this morning from Reverend Sylvester Williams Jr. He is the founder of WUBS radio and the host of "Real Talk." Thanks so much for being with us this morning, Reverend.

SYLVESTER WILLIAMS JR: Thank you, Rachel, for having me. I'm honored today.

MARTIN: You just heard our conversation with Mayor Buttigieg. What did you make of his plan, the so-called Douglass Plan, to advance racial equality in this country?

WILLIAMS: I thought it was very well put together. I thought it was certainly ambitious, forward-thinking. And it was very well grafted. I'm not sure if it's workable.

MARTIN: You're not sure if it's realistic, but you like the vision?

WILLIAMS: Yes.

MARTIN: I want to ask you about how the mayor has dealt with racial divides in his own community. And in my conversation with him, we talked a little bit about housing in particular, which is something he outlines in this Douglass Plan for the country. But he had this initiative in South Bend where he wanted to get rid of a lot of blight. And he claims that most residents of South Bend were supportive of that initiative. Is that true?

WILLIAMS: No. Many people felt that the housing stock could be reused for low-income housing, also job opportunities to put people back to work fixing up those houses.

MARTIN: How did the police shooting of a black man affect Mayor Buttigieg's relationship with black residents of South Bend?

WILLIAMS: He saw that there had been something under the surface prior to the shooting. There has been a neglect to discipline officers that have repeatedly done harm to citizens. Of course there was the misuse of the body cameras, which is supposed to be their uniform - part of their uniform, but they were not used. So there's been some neglect and indifference as to how he approached the black community and their issues.

MARTIN: Do you think, then, that this Douglass Plan - Mayor Buttigieg's ambitious plan to address racial inequality in this country - do you think it will make a difference in helping him earn the trust of Americans across the country?

WILLIAMS: I think that words on paper are just words on paper. There has to be the heart of the person that's writing the paper. If you can't see his heart, feel his concern for the people he's writing about, then you would think that's just another scholarly thesis that he's put together.

MARTIN: You feel like you don't know his heart?

WILLIAMS: No.

MARTIN: Reverend Sylvester Williams Jr. He joined us on the line from South Bend, Ind. Thank you so much for your time.

WILLIAMS: You're very welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.