Feb. 12, 2020: Pete Buttigieg’s campaign released a statement about the “Invest in Black America” t-shirt.

“The shirt was designed by Black staff as part of a package of promotional items to show the Black community’s support for Pete, his Douglass Plan and campaign for president. The t-shirt is a bold statement about the plan, which calls for the expansion of federal contracts to underserved communities to create three million jobs, investments in HBCUs, and tripling the number of Black businesses in 10 years. As mayor, Pete worked to support and improve quality of life for the Black community by making investments in affordable housing, expanding wifi access across the city and cutting Black unemployment by more than half. He plans to build on that progress as president, and the t-shirt is part of him stating his commitment to that work,” the state reads.

Rodericka Applewhaite, a member of Buttigieg’s Rapid Response team, hopped on Twitter to address criticism of the t-shirt.

“Everyones entitled to their opinion over the aesthetics of a shirt, but don’t assume this wasn’t orchestrated end-to-end by Black staff. It was. Let’s be real tho. This isn’t about the shirt as much as the compulsory need to gatekeep Black folks that dare to support someone else.” tweeted Applewhaite.

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Feb. 11, 2020: Pete Buttigieg’s campaign store is hocking a $27 t-shirt urging people to “Invest in Black America.”

The problem is that the message is being criticized for pandering to Black voters. According to polls, Buttigieg has low support among that demographic.

“I’m going to be as calm as possible about this. If you don’t understand how f*cking panderingly racist & clueless this is, please go see a therapist. Make sure the therapist is black. Are the shirts with Bob Marley on them coming next? I can’t,” tweeted Jason Overstreet.

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Invest in Black America Mayor Pete
Screenshot from peteforamerica.com

The t-shirt is a nod to Buttigieg’s “Douglass Plan for Black America,” named after abolitionist Frederick Douglass, which his web site describes as a “comprehensive investment in the empowerment of Black America.”

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“In committing to a comprehensive plan that focuses on Black Americans, the goal of the Douglass Plan is not to ignore the specific histories and experiences that have impacted other communities of color in the United States. Mayor Pete understands that racism is not just a black and white issue, and that we also need to address the unique challenges facing other communities – from Native communities confronting poverty and dispossession to the Islamophobia impacting Middle Eastern, Arab, and South Asian communities, to dehumanizing immigration policies that stereotype the Latinx community and overlook their vital contributions to our economy,” his plan reads in part. “America’s racist structures were built to justify and perpetuate slavery, and by achieving greater equity for Black Americans we lay the groundwork for achieving greater equity for other people of color as well.”

Still, quite a few people saw the t-shirt as a ploy to win votes.

“Olympic-level pandering,” tweeted Glen Alan Burris. “I want to like him so much. There are more subtle and sincere ways of saying ‘I support you.’ I’d recommend listening and learning why your black support is next to zero. Being tone-deaf is part of it. Warren admits her failings and gains credibility.”

One Twitter user wondered if the proceeds from the shirt would actually go to investing in Black America.

Pete Buttigieg is slanging $27.00 “Invest in Black America” t-shirts. Are the proceeds going to “Black America” or are they going into fundraising for his campaign?