Buttigieg’s ‘Douglass Plan’ Addresses Racism, Black Diabetes, Childbirth Inequities

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg and civil rights leader Frederick Douglass. (Photos: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images, National Archives and Records Administration) More
Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images, National Archives and Records Administration

South Bend, Ind., Mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg unveiled on Thursday his “Douglass Plan,” which he calls a plan for “restoration” of the black community from the effects of racism, including health inequities such as high rates of diabetes and childbirth mortality.

“You look at something like health,” Buttigieg said in an interview with National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. “You can basically quantify impacts of racism.”

“You see it in the fact that a black woman is three times as likely to die in childbirth as a white mother,” Buttigieg said. “You see it in different rates of diabetes and life expectancy itself.”

“This is a measurable cost of racism in health,” Buttigieg said. 

He said his plan, named after the iconic abolitionist Frederick Douglass, is not reparations, although he said that he would sign into law a proposed bill that would set up a commission to study reparations for the descendants of slaves.

“I think [the Douglass Plan] does not take the place of the conversation around reparations,” Buttigieg said. “I also support passing H.R. 40. I would sign it, which would create a commission to look at reparations.”

“But I do think that this is also restorative, in the same way that reparations is intended to be,” Buttigieg said. “This is not a gift. This is a restoration. It is trying to address generational harms and specific intentional theft that took place.”

Buttigieg said racism is “systemic” in the United States and whites need to talk about it:

I think we’ll know we’re getting somewhere when this is not regarded as some specialty issue that candidates of color talk about or that we only talk about when addressing voters of color. This is a conversation that, frankly, white America needs to have too, because white America needs to face the roots of these inequities and the fact of systemic racism all around us. It’s the air we breathe.

NPR reported on Buttigieg’s “restoration” plan as part of its “Election 2020: Opening Arguments” series:

His “Douglass Plan” aims to establish a $10 billion fund for black entrepreneurs over five years, invest $25 billion in historically black colleges, legalize marijuana, expunge past drug convictions, reduce the prison population by half and pass a new Voting Rights Act to further empower the federal government to ensure voting access.

His campaign says it is equal in scale to the Marshall Plan, which used the equivalent of approximately $100 billion at current value to rebuild Europe after World War II. Buttigieg says the program would be enacted alongside potential direct reparations for slavery, not in place of it.

The two-term mayor also supports a constitutional amendment to abolish the death penalty and intends to expand the Supreme Court and eradicate the Electoral College.

“I don’t know where we got the idea that it’s impossible to do these things,” he said. “This is a country that changed the Constitution so you couldn’t buy a drink and then changed its mind and changed it back. Are you really telling me that we are incapable of using one of the most elegant features of our constitutional system?”

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