Why I’m Giving $54 to Pete Buttigieg’s Campaign in Honor of His Devotion to Racial Justice

When Mr. Eric Logan, a Black man, was shot by Sgt. Ryan O’Neill, a White South Bend, Indiana policeman, I knew Pete Buttigieg, then Mayor of South Bend. I read his book. I read newspaper and magazine articles about him. I watched him on his first CNN Town Hall. I followed him closely on the trail. I watched television coverage of his campaign and interviews on the Sunday morning talk shows. I had come to know — and deeply admire — Pete Buttigieg, Democratic candidate for President.

I was already seeing his soul clearly on the day Mr. Logan was killed. I knew it to be that of a humanitarian, a lover of people, the earth, animals, and all living things. A helper. A healer. A unifier. With a need to put others before himself, he had an insatiable desire to be useful. A lover of G-d. A lover of life. All life.

Leaving the campaign trail to return to South Bend to deal with the aftermath of the tragedy, Pete went directly to the Black community. He wanted to be of help. To comfort as he could; to bind up open, searing wounds; to hear and field their rage at yet another killing of a Black man in America through the use of excessive force by a police officer.

Understandably, South Bend’s Black community was shattered to its core. Pete was their mayor, and he came home to mourn with them; and to respond to the anger and frustration of a community that rightfully demanded answers and justice. He wanted them to feel heard and supported. And he wanted them to know that they belonged in every way to the community they called home; though at the time, it seemed to them as though home was pretty unsafe place to be.

It is tragic but true that racism and targeting by law enforcement of the city’s Black citizens (as well as other people of color) didn’t begin when Pete became Mayor. Like other leaders of the overwhelming majority of American cities, Pete inherited the affliction. And, like most other Mayors, he set out to do something about it. The very notion of anyone being targeted for violence just because of the color of their skin, the religion they practiced, their cultural ethnicity or who they loved was abhorrent to Pete. And while Mayor Pete instituted several innovative approaches to help curb gun violence and to generate goodwill between the city’s police force and the community, the fact that systemic racism continued to fester under his watch remains one of his deepest disappointments of his tenure as Mayor. And he takes no solace from the fact that others in local, state and federal leadership positions have also been unable to tamp down simmering racial tensions in their jurisdictions. That is why Pete has placed his platform to address systemic racism as a centerpiece of his candidacy. Because this is personal to him. Very, very personal.

I recall watching television coverage of Mayor Pete as he stood outside that warm June day with a portable microphone pack draped on his shoulder, trying to answer questions from members of the Black community who had gathered in the aftermath of the shooting of Mr. Logan. Yes, this was his job—he was the city’s Mayor. But Pete also came because he was propelled by his sense of moral responsibility as a man of faith, courage and justice. But one image of that television coverage is now seared in my mind forever. It was the image of his face after someone asked him, “Pete, do Black lives matter to you?”

Image for post
Image for post
Pete Buttigieg, having just been asked by a member of the Black community if Black lives mattered to him.

Pete’s first response to being asked that question was, “You’re asking ME if I think Black Lives matter?” He needed time to wrap his head around the question. “Yes!” came the response from the crowd. “OF COURSE I think Black lives matter,” he answered. It was true, but that statement alone could not adequately convey the sheer depth of his caring for South Bend’s Black community. That would have to wait for clarity that would come with time.

Yet in that moment, it was apparent that Pete’s soul had been torn apart — shredded by what he considered to be his inability to have the citizens he served and cared so much about see who he really was in his heart. The shock of the question didn’t allow him to immediately account for the fact that anger, disappointment, grief and frustration was informing that question in that moment. In hindsight, they did know who their Mayor was, and what his compassionate soul commended him to do. Many are now supporting his candidacy for President. As Pete says, the members of his hometown’s Black community support him because they are the ones “who know me best.”

There are myriad reasons why I love Pete Buttigieg and why my support for him is unshakable. This is one of them. And his campaign to defeat systemic racism in this country speaks loudly to me. So now, in honor of Pete’s devotion to racial justice, I am donating $54 immediately to Pete’s campaign. Why 54? Mr. Eric Logan was 54 when he was murdered, so it is to honor all the years of Mr. Logan’s life. And, 54 is three times 18…which, in Hebrew letters, means “life.” Black Lives Matter — to Pete and to the millions who support him. #TeamPete

NOTE: In 2015, Mayor Pete was immersed in the issue of racial reconciliation in the South Bend community, and once said that “all lives matter.” What he did not realize at that time was that the phrase was starting to be viewed as a counter-slogan to Black Lives Matter and was being used to devalue what the Black Lives Matter movement was saying. Once he came to know that the “all lives matter” phrase was actually pushing back on Black Lives Matter activism, he immediately ceased to use the phrase at all.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store