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How Pete Buttigieg aims to empower black Americans

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg released a plan Thursday aimed at empowering black Americans through anti-racist policies across a number of sectors, including health care, education, the criminal justice system and housing.

"We have lived in the shadow of systemic racism for too long," Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., said in a statement. "We've seen a rise in white nationalism, an economic gap between Black and white workers that grows instead of shrinks, and worse health outcomes for Black Americans, particularly new mothers, that should make us all wonder how the richest country on earth can allow this to happen under our noses."

Health

In what he's calling his Douglass Plan, for abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, Buttigieg addresses racial disparities in health care with a proposal to create an interagency National Health Equity Strategy that aims to ensure that people have access to the resources they need in their work and home environments to live healthy lives, regardless of their background. He also calls for government investment in Health Equity Zones with an emphasis on communities that have been redlined and marginalized, in order to close the gap in health disparities.  

Tuition

Buttigieg proposes a $25 billion increase in funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other institutions that serve minorities. More broadly, the plan includes an increased investment of federal resources for Title I schools and gives low-income students free tuition.

Criminal justice reform

Buttigieg also wants to see the number of incarcerated people in the U.S. at the federal and state levels drop by 50%. He calls for the elimination of incarceration for drug possession and would reduce sentences for other drug offenses. The plan indicates that the policy would be applied retroactively, meaning past sentences for drug offenses could be modified under the Douglass Plan. Buttigieg also proposes eliminating mandatory minimum sentences and abolishing private prisons at the federal level.

Housing

Buttigieg is proposing the creation of a public trust fund to purchase abandoned houses. These properties would be made available to some residents in pilot cities, which the Department of Housing of Urban Development (HUD) would choose, based on a variety of factors, including available employment and the amount of land available. This would be done in conjunction with investments to revitalize the surrounding area.

In South Bend, Buttigieg, as mayor, implemented a housing initiative called 1,000 Houses in 1,000 Days. The initiative aimed to reduce the number of abandoned houses in the city by rehabilitating or destroying the properties. It received some criticism from South Bend residents who don't feel it improved their neighborhoods.

The plan would be a "complement" to HR 40, which is legislation pending in Congress that would create a commission to study and recommend proposals on paying reparations to the descendants of slaves.

Buttigieg has said on the campaign trail that leaders need to more intentional with their policies to replace anti-racist policies.

"I believe that when it comes to the experience of Black America, replacing racist policies with neutral policies won't get the job done," Buttigieg said at a fundraiser in Alexandria, Virginia in June. "We can't have a country where people have been systematically denied every opportunity to build wealth, health, education, and then expect it to take care of itself, even we did have neutral policies, which in many cases, to this day we don't."

Buttigieg initially released the framework of the Douglass Plan in June at a Black Economic Alliance Forum in South Carolina. Details are being released as he struggles to gain support from African American voters. According to a Quinnipiac poll after the Democratic primary debates in Miami, Buttigieg polled at zero percent among African American voters. 

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