Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg may have gotten himself in some hot water with Black voters after claiming that his experience as a gay man helps him relate to the Black community.

Buttigieg made his controversial comments during the most recent presidential debate where he admitted that he did not have to endure discrimination because of his skin, but he could relate to Black voters in another way.

“While I do not have the experience of ever having been discriminated against because of the color of my skin,” Buttigieg began, “I do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country, turning on the news and seeing my own rights come up for debate, and seeing my rights expanded by a coalition of people like me and people not at all like me.”

Probe of police shooting could revive scrutiny of Pete Buttigieg


There was sharp criticism almost immediately following his comments, including a critique from Sen. Kamala Harris, who called his comments “not productive” and “naive.”

The Indiana mayor has not been hugely favored among Black voters despite his recent lead in Iowa polls and New Hampshire polls. According to the Washington Post, he trails badly in South Carolina, the first primary state with a sizable African American population with less than 1 percent support among black Democrats there.

Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign used Kenyan photo to promote Douglass Plan for Black America

Buttigieg is also not very popular among Black voters in his own constituency as mayor of South Bend, Ind. Earlier this year, Buttigieg’s concern for the Black community came into question following the police-involved killing of, Eric Logan, a Black man, as it had been revealed that Black community members had previously complained about the officer-involved, Ryan O’Neill, for whom Buttigieg had not been quick to discipline.

Oliver Davis, a black council member in South Bend, said he did not agree with Buttigieg’s comparison.

“When you see me, you would know that I’m African American from day one,” Davis said. “When someone is gay or a lesbian, unless they tell or they are seen in certain situations, then no one is going to know that. They are able to build their résumés and build their careers.”

According to the Washington Post, Rev. Al Sharpton, who has been a supporter of Buttigieg claiming him to be misunderstood, said that the young mayor has a long way to go.

“I think Kamala had a point, and I understood what she was saying,”  Sharpton said. “He’s evolving. Do I think he’s where he needs to be? No.”

Rev. William Barber II, minister of the Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C, told the Washington Post that he believed it should not be about who has been discriminated the most, but about dealing with the issues.

“Let’s not get caught up in who understands discrimination the most,” Barber said. “Let’s deal with the real issue, which is that the same entities that are against gay folks are the same entities who are against black folks and that we ought to be united in fighting discrimination in any form it arises.”