California Sen. Kamala Harris came out against a federal busing mandate Wednesday, just days after excoriating former Vice President Joe Biden for having the same stance four decades earlier at the Democratic debate.
Harris said at an event in Iowa that school districts should consider busing, but said she does not support federally mandated busing, The Associated Press reported.
“I think of busing as being in the toolbox of what is available and what can be used for the goal of desegregating America’s schools,” Harris said.
Asked whether she supports federally mandated busing, Harris replied, “I believe that any tool that is in the toolbox should be considered by a school district.”
Harris slammed Biden for opposing busing mandate:
Harris’ recent ascent in the polls was largely sparked by her confrontation with Biden at last week’s Democratic debate, where she called Biden out for opposing federally mandated busing in the 1970s and 80s.
“There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day. That little girl was me,” Harris said.
Biden retorted that he was no opposed to busing but was instead opposed to federally mandated busing.
Harris told Biden that the federal mandate was required because states failed to desegregate schools.
“It was a failure of states to integrate public schools in America,” Harris told Biden. “I was part of the second class to integrate Berkeley, California, public schools almost two decades after Brown v. Board of Education.”
“Because your city council made that decision, it was a local decision,” Biden replied.
“So that’s where the federal government must step in!” Harris shot back. “That’s why we have the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. That’s why we need to pass the Equality Act, that’s why we need to pass the ERA [Equal Rights Amendment]. Because there are moments in history when states fail to preserve the civil rights of all people.”
Biden misled on his busing record, opposed it on principle:
Biden’s claim that he was only opposed to federally mandated busing was a lie. He made repeated statements in the 70s and 80s opposing busing as a principle.
“I oppose busing. It’s an asinine concept, the utility of which has never been proven to me,” Biden said in a 1975 interview. “I’ve gotten to the point where I think our only recourse to eliminate busing may be a constitutional amendment.”
“The new integration plans being offered are really just quota systems to assure a certain number of blacks, Chicanos, or whatever in each school. That, to me, is the most racist concept you can come up with,” Biden said. “What it says is, ‘In order for your child with curly black hair, brown eyes, and dark skin to be able to learn anything, he needs to sit next to my blond-haired, blue-eyed son.’ That’s racist! Who the hell do we think we are, that the only way a black man or woman can learn is if they rub shoulders with my white child?”
Biden later called busing a “bankrupt concept” in a Senate floor speech and pushed what the Washington Post described at the time as “the most far-reaching antibusing measure to receive serious consideration in the Senate.”
In a letter to notorious segregationist Mississippi Sen. James Eastland, Biden wrote, "I want you to know that I very much appreciate your help during this week's committee meeting in attempting to bring my anti-busing legislation to a vote."