During this week’s Democratic presidential debate, Kamala Harris became one of the most talked about candidates after making a bold strike against the primary front runner.
During an exchange with Joe Biden, Harris pointed to Biden’s problematic record about race, particularly concerning a bill about busing. Busing became a major vehicle to practically desegregate public and private schools during the 1960s and 70s. It helped give minority students, particularly in large cities, an opportunity to go to a school outside of their home neighborhood.
Things got edgy when Harris called out Biden for romanticizing his ability to work with segregationist senators James Eastland and Herman Talmadge to pass the discriminatory legislation.
“I do not believe you are a racist, and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground,” she said. “But it was hurtful to hear you talk the reputations of two United States Senators who built their reputations and career on segregation of race in this country.
“And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing,” she continued, “And you know, there was a little girl in California who was a part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.”
Biden responded by claiming Harris “mischaracterized his position “across the board” and said he only opposed busing “ordered by the Department of Education.”
On Friday, during a labor luncheon at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition annual convention in Chicago, Biden continued to defend his past comments and actions on civil rights, saying “30 seconds to 60 seconds on a campaign debate exchange can’t do justice to a lifetime committed to civil rights.”
He also doubled down in denying he was never against “voluntary” busing. “I want to be absolutely clear about my record and position on racial injustice, including busing,” Biden said to the crowd, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “I never, never, never ever opposed voluntary busing.”
However, in March 2019, an interview Biden did with a Delaware newspaper was reprinted by the Washington Post and in it, the then-senator explained why he thought government should have a limited role in desegregating schools. He also called busing plans racist and described them as “really just quota systems.”
“I do not buy the concept, popular in the ’60s, which said, ‘We have suppressed the black man for 300 years and the white man is now far ahead in the race for everything our society offers,” Biden told the newspaper. “In order to even the score, we must now give the black man a head start, or even hold the white man back, to even the race.'”
Considering how much of a blow Biden’s actions in the 70s have already caused, we can’t help but wonder what will happen to his candidacy when folks start scrutinizing his record from the 80s and 90s.
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
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