HOUSTON, TX – At Thursday night’s Democratic presidential debate, Mayor Pete Buttigieg just mentioned his “Douglass Plan for Black America,” which has earned widespread praise for being the most comprehensive agenda of any presidential candidate to help dismantle systemic racism. The 18-page comprehensive proposal is full of specific anti-racist policies that focus on the five pillars of homeownership, entrepreneurship, education, health and justice and cover several touchpoints of the Black American experience, including disparities in medical treatment and environmental justice, as well as voter suppression.
Throughout this campaign, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been outspoken about the need to dismantle the structures and systems that have prevented Black Americans from achieving equality in America. His Douglass Plan is part of his commitment to bring these issues to the forefront on the campaign trail, which stands out against the rest of the 2020 field.
Some praise for the Douglass Plan:
“I haven’t seen anybody with a Black agenda to that extent except for Pete” – Charlamagne tha God
“I think that this is a great first step right, it’s a great moment to say look, I actually have ideas, here are the specifics.” – Zerlina Maxwell
“By announcing such a broad and encompassing plan to tackle racial injustice, @PeteButtigieg is setting down a marker for other candidates and showing his commitment to tackling racism head on.” – Sejal Hathi
“Interesting, highly specific stuff.” – Ali Velshi
More background below:
FOR ALL THE COUNTRY’S PROGRESS, BUTTIGIEG UNDERSTANDS THAT WE ARE AT A CRITICAL POINT TO RECOGNIZE BLACK AMERICANS ARE STILL BEING HELD BACK
Penned Douglass Plan Op-Ed To Highlight Setbacks Black Americans Still Face In Terms Of Employment, Reading Levels, And Maternal Mortality That “Hold Back Our Economy And Corrode The American Soul.” “Black Americans are not yet fully free when Black unemployment is still almost twice the national average, when the average Black eighth grader reads at a level far below their white peers, and when Black mothers are 3-4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. We lack true freedom when so many schools are almost as segregated as they were before Brown v. Board of Education. And, we cannot have freedom when identical resumes with stereotypically white or Black names lead to wildly different chances of being hired. These persistent inequalities have compounded over hundreds of years. They hold back our economy and corrode the American soul.” [The Charleston Chronicle, 6/12/19]
Buttigieg: “Replacing Racist Policies With Neutral Ones Will Not Be Enough To Deliver Equality. We Must Actively Work To Reverse These Harms.” “Replacing racist policies with neutral ones will not be enough to deliver equality. We must actively work to reverse these harms, which is why I propose that we invest in equity with a plan as bold as the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II. Let’s call it the Douglass Plan for Black America, in honor of Frederick Douglass, who called America to better live up to its promise. Such a plan could help heal the deep wounds of America’s original sin and supercharge economic growth for every American.” [The Charleston Chronicle, 6/12/19]
Buttigieg: “The Decisions We Make In The Next Four Years Will Determine America’s Path For The Next Forty.” “The decisions we make in the next four years will determine America’s path for the next forty. And a great deal of the progress we make–on everything from increasing economic freedom to confronting climate disruption–will depend on whether we tackle racial inequality in our lifetime. For all our country’s forward movement, Black people in America are still disproportionately excluded from systems of social protection, economic uplift, and representative democracy while facing shorter lifespans, lower educational attainment, and dramatic overcriminalization and incarceration compared to their white counterparts.” [Campaign website]
The Douglass Plan Notes How All Americans Can Stand To Benefit From An Empowered And Supported Black Community. “When Black America experiences economic justice and opportunity, we all benefit. When our democracy works for Black America, it is a better democracy for all of us. When we place Black women at the heart of the struggle for reproductive justice, the lives of all women are made healthier and freer. When young Black men have equal employment opportunities, all of America benefits from their economic contributions. The Douglass Plan is a specific plan for Black America–but it also establishes a deep and solid foundation for racial and economic justice for all communities of color and for all Americans.” [Campaign website]
THE DOUGLASS PLAN WILL DISMANTLE EXISTING PREDETERMINATIONS FOR BLACK AMERICANS IN AREAS OF HEALTHCARE, SCHOOLING, AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
Buttigieg Recognizes The Domino Effect That Results From Black Americans Navigating A Medical System With Unchecked Implicit Biases. “Black Americans are burdened by daunting social conditions that impact health and receive lower quality health care due to institutional racism and implicit bias, and thus disproportionately suffer worse health outcomes. In practice, this means that Black Americans are more likely to be unstably housed or homeless, to live in unhealthier housing, to be unemployed or to receive lower wages for the same work, and to be limited to accessing lower quality food systems–all of which negatively impact health and disease.” [Campaign website]
This Cycle Means That Black Women Aren’t Taken Seriously In The Delivery Room And Chest Pain Is “Less Aggressively Monitored” When Black Men Seek Care. “It means that a Black mother’s emotional pain after giving birth isn’t taken seriously by her doctors, so her postpartum depression goes undiagnosed. Or that a Black man who visits an emergency room is undertreated with pain medication, or that his chest pain is less aggressively monitored and investigated. In America, Black mothers are 3-4 times more likely to die during or after childbirth and Black infants are more than twice as likely to die as white infants. Black Americans also face significantly higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and a host of other conditions.” [Campaign website]
Buttigieg Would Launch An Interagency National Health Equity Strategy To Implement Deliberately Anti-Racist Strategies To Make “Quality Health Outcomes” A Basic Standard. “A Buttigieg Administration will center the lives of Black Americans in our nation’s health care and public health systems by launching an interagency National Health Equity Strategy. This strategy will prioritize anti-racism and is undergirded by the belief that quality health outcomes should be the norm for every American, regardless of race, place, income, or even access to health care.” [Campaign website]
Key Components Of This Strategy: Health Equity Zones, Racial Bias Training, And A Revitalized Office Of Civil Rights In The Department Of Health And Human Services. “We will designate and fund Health Equity Zones to address communities’ most pressing health disparities, especially in communities with histories of redlining and economic and social marginalization. These Health Equity Zones will support the identification, development, implementation, and monitoring of plans tailored to address local health inequities. […] We will address the underrepresentation of Black Americans in the health workforce and train our current health workforce to combat bias–especially racial bias–when treating patients. […] We will revitalize the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that frameworks are in place to address health inequities, promote equal access, and prohibit discrimination; that agencies explicitly consider racial impact in their regulatory decisions and rule-making.” [Campaign website]
In Terms Of America’s Educational Opportunity Gap, Buttigieg Identified That The Status Quo “Causes Over $500 Billion In Lost Economic Growth Annually.” “Today, too many children of color are being denied educational justice. From a lack of adequate resources, to critical teacher shortages, to discriminatory disciplinary policies that reduce instruction time and feed the school-to-prison pipeline, students of color are far too often not afforded the same educational opportunities as their white peers. And when the intellectual lives of students of color are diminished, America loses. This opportunity gap causes over $500 billion in lost economic growth annually, and is one of the most significant contributors to the perpetuation of the Black-white wealth gap.” [Campaign website]
To Correct This Loss, The Douglass Plan Includes A “Schools Of The Future Plan” That Will Increase Public Education Funding In America’s Most Underserved Communities And Diversify The Workforce. “Schools that serve students who come to school hungry, who lack access to high-quality health care, who experience homelessness, and who know firsthand the indignity of racial discrimination need more resources–not less–if they are to experience opportunity equal to their peers. A Buttigieg Administration will dramatically increase Title I funding to support higher teacher pay and supplemental services for lower-income students above and beyond state and local funding resources. […] We will also set new guidelines around the use of Title II funds to invest in recruiting, training, and supporting the next generation of school leaders of color.” [Campaign website]
Pete’s Vision Also Considers The Disparities In Higher Education Access, Making Public College Tuition-Free For Low-Income Students And Forgiving For-Profit College Debt. “We will invest in college students’ futures by making public college tuition free for lower-income students and ensuring the lowest-income students can cover living costs without taking on student debt through increased investments in the Pell Grant program. […] We will cancel the debts of borrowers in low-quality, overwhelmingly for-profit programs beginning with those that failed federal “gainful employment” rules designed to ensure students receive an adequate return on their investments. The federal government should never have allowed students to enroll in these programs and we will hold those colleges accountable for their predatory actions.” [Campaign website]
The Douglass Plan Provides For An Increased Investment In HBCUs/Minority-Serving Institutions By $25 Billion. “We will increase dedicated resources by $25 billion for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), which have played an extraordinary role in educating Black students, developing remarkable leaders, and helping build a burgeoning Black middle class. […] Significantly increasing the resources available to HBCUs and MSIs to help level the playing field between them and other world-class institutions in the United States is about a commitment to restorative justice.” [Campaign website]
Criminal Justice Reform Is A Sizable Pillar Of The Douglass Plan, Buttigieg Touches On Several Changes To Reduce The Incarcerated Population by 50%.
Double funding for federal grants for states that commit to criminal justice reform, and prioritize funding for programs aimed at pretrial reforms, decarceration, and expansion of alternative to incarceration (ATI) programs.
Eliminate incarceration for drug possession, reduce sentences for other drug offenses and apply these reductions retroactively, legalize marijuana and expunge past convictions.
Eliminate mandatory minimums.
Commute the sentences of people who are incarcerated in the federal system beyond what justice warrants by establishing an independent clemency commission that sits outside the Department of Justice.
Abolish private federal prisons, support states that are eliminating the for-profit bail industry, and work with them to cap the amount of revenue cities and counties receive from fines and fees so that police can focus on protecting public safety rather than raising revenue.
Reduce the criminalization of poverty and its link to incarceration.
Support a constitutional amendment to abolish the death penalty.
Reduce over-reliance on solitary confinement and abolish its prolonged use.
The Douglass Plan Also Offers Solutions To Remove The Element Of Dehumanization From Incarceration, And Reduce Recidivism As People Navigate Out Of The System.
Restore Pell Grant access to people who are incarcerated.
Remove the Medicaid exception for the incarcerated.
Through adequate funding, empower states to provide better opportunities for individuals to prepare for life after incarceration.
Ensure the costs of fundamental services and programs is not the financial responsibility of people who are incarcerated or their family members.
Significantly reduce the use of supervised release.
Ensure that people with convictions have the freedom to access education, jobs, housing, and health care.
Restore the right to vote for all formerly incarcerated people immediately upon release.
The Douglass Plan Makes It A Priority To Protect The Freedom Of Black People In America By Bringing Fewer People Into The Criminal Justice System In The First Place And Minimizing Police Overreach. “Black people have a higher likelihood of arrest by age 28 than white people, and Black people with disabilities have an even higher likelihood. There is no national database of officer-involved shootings, but available data show that Black people are disproportionately subject to excessive force–including deadly force–from police officers. This disparity is even worse when considering unarmed people killed by the police. We need accountability, training, and enforcement to ensure that no more Black people are unjustifiably arrested and that no more Black lives are wrongly lost at the hands of police officers.” [Campaign website]
A Buttigieg Administration Would Achieve This Necessity Through:
Establishing comprehensive measures to hold police accountable to their communities.
Promoting legislation that raises the legal standard under which officers are justified to use lethal force and offer incentives for states and localities to adopt more restrictive policies.
Working to eliminate unfair and discriminatory practices, such as broken windows-style policing, that are shown to be biased against people of color.
Supporting departments that actively strengthen community relationships and implement community policing, and we will encourage other departments to follow their lead.
Promoting effective, informed independent civilian oversight of state and local law enforcement agencies.
Investing in community-based health care, especially mental health services, and other front-end social supports.
THE DOUGLASS PLAN WOULD ACTIVELY WORK TO UNDO THE WRONGS OF CENTURIES OF SYSTEMIC DISCRIMINATION TO MITIGATE WEALTH AND OPPORTUNITY GAPS FOR BLACK AMERICA
Buttigieg Makes Clear Throughout His White Paper That Closing The Racial Wealth Gap Is Crucial To Building Economic Security For Black America. “The racial wealth gap is the most visible economic consequence of our long history of discrimination against Black Americans. The legacy of slavery is a legacy of stolen labor and stolen wealth. For every $100 in wealth a white family has, the average Black family only has $5.04–and nearly three-quarters are dissatisfied with the current economic state for Black communities. Slavery, segregation, redlining, predatory lending, and other systemic discriminatory practices created this dynamic, and the Douglass Plan will take deliberate steps to dismantle those systems while providing the necessary capital and tools to mitigate wealth and opportunity gaps.” [Campaign website]
A Component Of The Douglass Plan Is The Walker-Lewis Initiative, Which Aims To Triple The Number Of Entrepreneurs From Underrepresented Backgrounds Over The Next Decade. “A third of Black Americans report either owning a businesses or expecting to start one within the next five years, yet 57% of this group say they frequently worry about not being able to secure a loan. After the Great Recession, minority-owned businesses added 1.3 million jobs to our national economy. Black and Latinx entrepreneurs respectively comprised 14% and 8% of entrepreneurs in 2015, though their combined revenue was less than 2% of the total $33.5 trillion in revenue from all entrepreneurs. The Walker-Lewis Initiative aims to triple the number of entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds within 10 years. Inspired by Black business pioneers Madam CJ Walker and Reginald Lewis, the goal of this initiative is to create up to 3 million new jobs in minority communities and across the country overall.” [Campaign website]
On The Federal Level, Buttigieg Would Aid This Initiative By Awarding 25% Of Federal Contracting Dollars To Small Business Owners From Underserved Communities. “We will launch the Walker-Lewis Promise to aim to award 25% of federal contracting dollars to small business owners from underserved communities in urban and rural areas, including minority-owned firms (currently nearly 10%) and women-owned firms (currently at 5%). Overall federal contracting in 2017 was over $500 billion. Awarding more contracts to business owners who are economically and socially disadvantaged would inject over $100 billion in underserved communities.” [Campaign website]
Situated Within The Douglass Plan Is The Proposal For A 21st Century Community Homestead Act To Launch A Public Trust That Would Purchase Abandoned Properties And Provide Them To Eligible Residents In Pilot Cities. “Seventy-four percent of neighborhoods that were redlined in the 1930s remain low-income to this day, and 64% remain majority-minority. Meanwhile, policies from the New Deal to the G.I. Bill to the Federal Housing Administration of the 1950s and 1960s directly invested in white homeownership while purposely excluding Black Americans. This investment has compounded over generations and combined with centuries of conscious and intentional discrimination to entrench the racial wealth gap. The Douglass Plan proposes a 21st Century Community Homestead Act to launch a public trust that would purchase abandoned properties and provide them to eligible residents in pilot cities while simultaneously investing in the revitalization of surrounding communities. […] In addition to helping families across the nation, the investment in these communities would provide greater services and infrastructure for new industries and sectors to thrive, creating a multiplier effect of jobs and prosperity for local residents.” [Campaign website]
MAYOR PETE’S DOUGLASS PLAN COMMANDED ATTENTION FOR EXPANDING FOCUS OF BLACK AMERICAN ISSUES BEYOND CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
Black Economic Alliance Co-Chair Dr. Anthony Coles: The Douglass Plan Passes Muster “Because One Of The Other Things That We Are Really Interested In Is The Access To Capital For Black Americans.” “It does [pass muster] because one of the other things that we are really interested in is the access to capital for Black Americans. Typically Black Americans pay high interest rates for loans, they’ve been blocked from homeownership, which is one of the chief ways of wealth creation in this country, and so if we can shift resources, shift the opportunity to move capital into those communities, they’ll have the opportunity to grow. This would be especially important for people who want to start businesses. There is a lot of entrepreneurship in the black community, but there aren’t available funds for small business loans or grants. So there are some really interesting ideas here, if we can stimulate entrepreneurship opportunities, provide access to capital, we think we can actually move the needle on these issues.” [MSNBC, 6/12/19]
MSNBC: The Douglass Plan “Appears To Represent His Initial Attempt At A Proposal On Reparations For Slavery.” The plan, which Buttigieg says should rival in scope the Marshall Plan that invested in Europe after WWII, appears to represent his initial attempt at a proposal on reparations for slavery. In recent days, Buttigieg has said he would create a commission to figure out the best way to do reparations, noting that he supports the idea of reparations, but not as a cash check. Rather, he supports a program to address long-term structural inequities that linger from the era of slavery. [NBC News, 6/12/19]
NBC News Headline: “Buttigieg Calls For ‘Douglass Plan’ To Boost Economic Prosperity For African Americans.” [NBC News, 6/12/19]
Washington Post (Jonathan Capehart Opinion Piece): “If You Listen Carefully To Buttigieg, He Has A Message That African Americans Will Implicitly Pick Up On.” “If you listen carefully to Buttigieg, he has a message that African Americans will implicitly pick up on. For instance, in that Fox News town hall last month, he talked about the high rates of death among black women surrounding childbirth without being asked a specific question about it.” [Washington Post, 6/17/19]
Capehart Continued: “By Putting [Homeownership And Entrepreneurship] Front And Center, Buttigieg Is Signaling To Black Voters That He Sees That Their Hopes And Aspirations Are Just Like Those Of The Forgotten Voters.” During an interview with the Breakfast Club in March, Buttigieg had a ready answer when Charlamagne tha God asked him about his agenda for black America. ‘An agenda for black America needs to focus on black entrepreneurship, black homeownership,’ he responded. ‘We need to focus on public education… We need to talk about health… And we got to talk about criminal justice. All of those things.’ What makes that answer impressive to me is that typical politicians lead with criminal justice reform, assuming they come back to homeownership and entrepreneurship at all. By putting those two front and center, Buttigieg is signaling to black voters that he sees that their hopes and aspirations are just like those of the forgotten voters (read: white working class) so many folks are focused on.” [Washington Post, 6/17/19]
Washington Post Headline: “Buttigieg’s Approach To Courting Black Voters Appears To Be Working.” [Washington Post, 6/17/19]
Essence: “Buttigieg Is Calling For A Serious Look At Infrastructure And Environmental Conditions That Disproportionately Affect Areas With A High Concentration Of Black People.” “Though the Black community’s 40 acres and a mule aren’t on the game plan, the Democrat who has come out in favor of reparations wants to make it easier for Black Americans to own property and revitalize neighborhoods. Simultaneously, Buttigieg is calling for a serious look at infrastructure and environmental conditions that disproportionately affect areas with a high concentration of Black people.” [Essence, 7/11/19]
NPR Headline: “Buttigieg Proposes Broad Plan To Counter Racial Inequality.” “Countering skeptics who doubt he can win crucial African-American voters in the 2020 Democratic primary, Buttigieg rolled out the details of his plan to combat systemic racial inequality, named for legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass, on NPR’s Morning Edition. The “Douglass Plan” aims to establish a $10 billion fund for black entrepreneurs over five years, invest $25 billion in historically black colleges, legalize marijuana and 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.” [NPR, 7/11/19]
NBC News Headline: “Buttigieg Releases 18-Page Plan To Help African Americans.” “Working to prove himself to African American voters, Pete Buttigieg is releasing an 18-page plan Thursday to improve conditions and opportunity for black Americans on everything from the health care, education and criminal justice systems to entrepreneurship and access to credit.” [NBC News, 7/11/19]
WMUR New Hampshire Headline: “Buttigieg Unveils Sweeping Racial Justice Plan.” “Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who has been at the center of racial tensions in his home city in recent weeks, is unveiling a sweeping racial justice plan Thursday that addresses a variety of areas he says are now rampant with inequities. […] Another of the key components of the plan is a proposed 21st Century Voting Rights Act that expands voting access, including making voter registration and voting easier by automatically registering eligible voters and allowing online and same-day registration (which is in effect in New Hampshire).” [WMUR, 7/11/19]