Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg told an audience in Iowa, “The fact that a black person is four times as likely as a white person to be incarcerated for the exact same crime is evidence of systemic racism.” He said that he was referring to the racial disparity in marijuana arrests nationwide, citing an American Civil Liberties Union study that found black people were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for pot than whites. The disparity in Buttigieg’s South Bend, In., has been significantly worse, reports The Intercept. Since Buttigieg became mayor in January 2012, the disparity is worse than in the rest of the U.S. or even the rest of Indiana.
A black South Bend resident, under Buttigieg, was 4.3 times more likely to be arrested for possessing marijuana between 2012 and 2018 than a white resident, according to federal data. In Indiana statewide during that time, according to data from reporting law enforcement agencies, black people were 3.5 times more at risk of a pot arrest; nationally, the disparity between the rates of black arrests and white arrests was 3 to 1. South Bend has a black population of 27,000 and a white population of 64,000. Local police have made 1,256 arrests for pot possession since 2012. Of those, 805 were black, while just 449 were white. Nationally, the rate of marijuana use is roughly equal for blacks and whites. The disparity in South Bend extends into other crimes: In 2018, 22 black people were arrested for selling weed, while just 4 white people were taken in. Sean Savett, a Buttigieg campaign spokesperson, said, “While mayors don’t make the law related to drug possession, Pete has been an outspoken advocate for legalization because he recognizes the disparate impact these laws have in devastating Black communities and the lives of Black Americans, particularly young Black men.”