Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) criticized Democratic presidential rival and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Thursday for comparing the discrimination that he felt as a gay man to the historic civil rights abuses of black Americans.
“Those of us who’ve been involved in civil rights for a long time, we know that it is important that we not compare our struggles,” Harris said during a Black Women Power Breakfast hosted by Higher Heights, a national political organization for black women. “It is not productive, it is not smart and strategically, [and] it works against what we need to do which is build coalition.”
“We know that in our ongoing fight for civil rights if any one of us starts to differentiate ourselves in a certain way and, in particular, what he did on the stage,” she continued. “It’s just not productive and I think it’s a bit naïve.”
Harris added that “there’s no equating those two experiences.”
The California lawmaker’s remarks were in reference to an answer Buttigieg provided during the Democratic National Committee’s fifth presidential primary debate on Wednesday. While on the debate state, Harris lamented the treatment of black Americans, whom she contended are the backbone of the Democratic Party despite their needs often being overlooked or otherwise taken for granted.
Buttigieg, who has been struggling to gain traction with African-American voters, responded to the criticism in agreement and put forth that he “welcome[s] the challenge of connecting with black voters in American who don’t yet know me.” He further noted that he can relate to how black voters feel because of the discrimination he has felt for his sexuality.
“I care about this because while I do not have the experience of ever having been discriminated against because of the color of my skin, I do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country,” Buttigieg said at the time. “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, working side by side, shoulder to shoulder, making it possible for me to be standing here wearing this wedding ring in a way that couldn’t have happened two elections ago, lets me know just how deep my obligation is to help those whose rights are on the line every day — even if they are nothing like me in their experience.”
However, this is not the first time that Harris has referred to Buttigieg as “naïve.” Earlier in November, she went after him for stating that the primary race is beginning to winnow down to only two candidates, himself and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
“Well, I think that’s just, that it’s naïve for him to think that at this point that the fate of this election has been determined,” Harris responded to his comment. “Just look at history. He might need to review to know that what’s happening right now is not necessarily determinative of the outcome.”