Night two of the second democratic debate proved to be more intense and combative for the candidates in the ring for the 2020 presidential election. On the first night, the candidates tackled questions on reparations and race.
On night two, the candidates faced a similar line of questioning. Here’s what they had to say about the rise of racism fueled by President Trump and how they plan to fix the broken criminal justice system.
Michael Bennet, when asked why he’s the best candidate to heal the racial divide that has been stoked by the president's racist rhetoric:
“When there's a group of kids in this country that don't get preschool through no fault of their own and another group does, equal is not equal. And we've got a group of K-12 schools that are good because families can spend a million bucks, and you've got the Detroit public schools that are as segregated as they were. Equal is not equal.
“And let me tell you something else, Don. I believe you can draw a straight line from slavery through Jim Crow through the banking and the redlining to the mass incarceration that we were talking about on this stage a few minutes ago. But you know what other line I can draw? Eighty-eight percent of the people in our prisons dropped out of high school. Let's fix our school system and maybe we can fix the prison pipeline that we have.”
Jay Inslee on the racial divide in the country:
“I approach this question with humility because I have not experienced what many Americans have. I've never been a black teenager pulled over in a white neighborhood. I've never been a woman talked over in a meeting. I've never been an LGBTQ member subject to a slur. And so I have believed I have an added responsibility, a double responsibility, to deal with racial disparity. And we've talked on the way we do it, including ending -- ending the school to prison pipeline in my state.
“But I want to say this. And this is a common error that every single senator on this stage, as much as I respect them all -- they all have an enormous error which is going to prevent our party from making any progressive progress in the United States, and it is this. We are all going to work like the dickens to get more Democrats elected to the Senate, right? We are going to do that.”
Andrew Yang, when asked how he plans to end the racial divide in the country:
“I spent seven years running a non-profit that helped create thousands of jobs, including hundreds right here in Detroit, as well as Baltimore, Cleveland, New Orleans. And I saw that the racial disparities are much, much worse than I had ever imagined.
“They're even worse still. A study just came out that projected the average African-American median net worth will be zero by 2053. So you have to ask yourself, how is that possible? It's possible because we're in the midst of the greatest economic transformation in our history. Artificial intelligence is coming. It's going to displace hundreds of thousands of call center workers, truck drivers -- the most common job in 29 states, including this one.”
“And you know who suffers most in a natural disaster? It's people of color, people who have lower levels of capital and education and resources. So what are we going to do about it? We should just go back to the writings of Martin Luther King, who in 1967, his book ‘Chaos or Community,’ said ‘We need a guaranteed minimum income in the United States of America.’ That is the most effective way for us to address racial inequality in a genuine way and give every American a chance in the 21st Century economy.”
Julian Castro on President Trump’s racist attacks on Rep. Elijah Cummings and how he would help cities like Baltimore:
“We know that, whether it's Baltimore or cities like Detroit, they have -- they're tremendously rich in history and culture and also in possibility. Here's what I would do if I'm president. Number one, I would invest in tremendous educational opportunity; invest in universal pre-K for three and four-year-olds; invest in improving K-12 education and also making higher education available to everyone through tuition-free public state universities, community colleges and job training and certification programs. I would follow-up on the work that I did at HUD. We passed the most sweeping rule to further desegregate our communities in the United States.
“This Trump administration set that back. I would put that back in order. I would also invest in housing that is affordable, because folks know that the rent is going through the roof. And we need to make sure that you don't have to get out of West Baltimore, or Inner City Detroit, or the west side of San Antonio, or anywhere, if you want to reach your American dream. I want you to be able to accomplish it in your great neighborhood where you are.”
Kirsten Gillibrand on white privilege:
“I don't believe that it's the responsibility of Cory and Kamala to be the only voice that takes on these issues of institutional racism, systemic racism in our country. I think as a white woman of privilege, who is a U.S. senator, running for president of the United States, it is also my responsibility to lift up those voices that aren't being listened to.
“And I can talk to those white women in the suburbs that voted for Trump and explain to them what white privilege actually is, that when their son is walking down a street with a bag of M&Ms in his pocket, wearing a hoodie, his whiteness is what protects him from not being shot.”
“When his - when her - when their child has a car that breaks down, and he knocks on someone's door for help, and the door opens, and the help is given, it's his whiteness that protects him from being shot. That is what white privilege in America is today. And so, my responsibility's to only lift up those stories, but explain to communities across America, like I did in Youngstown, Ohio, to a young mother, that this is all of our responsibilities, and that together we can make our community stronger.”
Joe Biden on criminal justice reform:
“Right now, we're in a situation where, when someone is convicted of a drug crime, they end up going to jail and to prison. They should be going to rehabilitation. They shouldn't be going to prison. When in prison, they should be learning to read and write and not just sit in there and learn how to be better criminals.
“And when they get out of prison, they should be in a situation where they have access to everything they would have had before, including Pell grants for education, including making sure that they're able to have housing, public housing, including they have all the opportunities that were available to them because we want them to become better citizens.”
Julian Castro on his criminal justice reform policy plans:
“When we talk about criminal justice reform, there are a lot of things that we can talk about -- sentencing reform, cash bail reform, investing in public defenders, diversion programs. I'm proud that I'm the only candidate that has put forward a police reform plan, because we have a police system that is broken and we need to fix it.
“And whether it's the case of someone like Tamir Rice or Michael Brown or Eric Garner, where the Trump Justice Department just decided not to pursue challenges, we need to ensure we have a national use of force standard and that we end qualified immunity for police officers so that we can hold them accountable for using excessive force.”
Bill De Blasio when asked why the officer who killed Eric Garner is still on the force:
“I know the Garner family. They've gone through extraordinary pain. They are waiting for justice and are going to get justice. There's finally going to be justice. I have confidence in that, in the next 30 days, in New York.”
“You know why? Because for the first time, we are not waiting on the federal Justice Department, which told the city of New York that we could not proceed because the Justice Department was pursuing their prosecution. And years went by, and a lot of the pain accrued.
“And in the meantime, what I'm working on is making sure -- and I have for five years -- there will never be another tragedy, there will never be another Eric Garner, because we're changing fundamentally how we police.”
Kirsten Gillibrand on what she would have done as mayor of New York if Eric Garner died under her watch:
“I sat down with Eric Garner's mother. And I can tell you, when you've lost your son, when he begged for breath, when you know because you have a video, when you know he said "I can't breathe" so many times, over and over again, when you know he used an illegal chokehold, that person should be fired. And as -- if I was -- if I was the mayor, I would fire him.
“But as president, I would make sure that we had a full investigation, that the report would be made public. And if I wasn't satisfied, we would have a consent decree.”
(Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)