Four U.S. presidential candidates came to South Florida on Tuesday to address the National Association of Black Journalists. Senators Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders, Southbend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and former Massachusetts Governor and Republican challenger Bill Weld each spoke separately, in an evening that highlighted differences over how best to address institutional racism.
The national focus on white nationalism and gun violence this week appeared to frame the evening’s discussions—and the candidates’ campaigns—as a moral debate about the best ways to address the country's complicated racial history.
Topics such as police brutality and the recent mass shootings were discussed during a panel with three moderators—Joy-Ann Reid of MSNBC, Axios Political Reporter Alexi McCammond, and The Atlantic writer Vann Newkirk.
The speeches by Democratic candidates Buttigieg and Booker exposed small but nuanced differences between their views on race.
Mayor Buttigieg blames persistent strains of white supremacy for obstructing the advance of racial equality in America. “I hope over the course of this campaign you will see how I speak about these issues not only with mostly black audiences but also with mostly white audiences,” said Buttigieg. “Because if there’s anything we’ve learned over the past few days, systemic racism is a white problem.”
Senator Booker of New Jersey spoke at considerable length about the need for a broader reckoning with white supremacy and racism.
“The real question isn’t who is or isn’t a racist, but who is or isn’t doing something about it,” he said. “Have we perpetuated the problem ourselves through a lack of fair examination of racism in America, a lack of truth telling? A lack of action. We all have a responsibility and yes, you have a responsibility.”
Though Booker did not mention President Trump by name, Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld—the sole challenger to Trump for the Republican nomination—did. His take on race involved a direct message to the president.
“We wish you would go back to where you came from,” he said. “Go back to boasting that you and your father have ways of keeping people of color out of your housing developments. Go back to judging beauty contests for a profession and going to parties with Jeffrey Epstein.”
The annual convention, one of the biggest in the country, continues until Sunday and is taking place at the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa in Aventura, Fla.