Poor Joe Biden. He never saw it coming during the Democratic debate last Thursday. His campaign slogan which is something like “Look to the Future” was his attempt to cover up some of the knots in wood of his years as a politician. How naive could he be that he thought he would be able to gloss over his past and mainly talk about his plans for the future. As that famous American pundit said: “On the journey through life your past travels with you.”
Joe’s been around a long time. The United States has added over 100 million people to the population since he was first elected to the U.S Senate in 1972. People born that year are now 17 years older than he was at that time. From his many years in politics if he was paying attention it had to be obvious to him because he was touted as the front-runner that the guns would be aimed at him.
Yet, he seemed caught unaware when Kamala Harris leveled her charges of racism at him. Harris as a child lived in Berkeley, California. She was bused from a mostly black school to one in a white neighborhood that had a majority of white students in second grade in 1969. She first chastised Biden for having cozied up to a couple of segregationist Democratic senators. If they had their way she would never have become a U.S. senator. She then pointed out that Biden was opposed to busing. She implied it allowed her to receive a better education than she otherwise would have received. Without specifically saying it we were supposed to conclude from her well prepared attack that it was busing that enabled her to be on the debate stage that night.
Biden somewhat at a loss that the Kumbaya moment quickly evanesced responded he was a hero in the fight for black civil rights. He added he was not against the type of busing that Harris was involved in which was established by the City of Berkeley. He was against that imposed by the Department of Education. The next day Biden made clear he was not opposed to voluntary busing.
The Berkeley busing was no more volunteer than that which occurred in Boston in the early 1970s. Harris’s attack sent many back to see exactly what Biden’s position on busing was shortly after he was elected to the Senate. Back in 1981 Biden talked about his stance on busing: “That is when blacks moved north, they were either pushed into or moved into black ghettos. Just like when Irish moved, they went into Irish ghettos and Jews into Jewish ghettos et cetera. In the south, after the Emancipation Proclamation, the slaves didn’t move off the plantation. The point I was trying to make is when you’re trying to remedy the situation, what happened was the system whereby you could impose a busing remedy in an area where you had black, white, black, white living on the same block, it made a great deal of sense. But where you ended up with disparate neighborhoods long distances apart but were segregated and you tried to integrate the facilities, it created a number of mechanical problems that are significant.”
That was a lot of babble. If blacks and whites lived in the same neighborhoods there would be no busing. The issue was what to do when they lived in separate areas. Joe noted that significant mechanical problems would be created in any attempt to integrate the schools. What those would be he didn’t say. From what would appear after looking at the issue those “mechanical problems” boiled down to white opposition to busing.