Biden’s professed concern for blacks being subject to busing because “black parents were terrified that their children would be targets of violence in suburban schools” was facile. Blacks were clamoring to go to the better schools in the suburbs as shown by Boston’s METCO program that never could satisfy the demands of all the blacks who sought entry into it. So it is given lie to by the case of Milliken v. Bradley, 418 U.S. 717 (1974), a case that did more to destroy the effectiveness of busing than all the Southern segregationists and northern weak kneed politicians. MIlliken decided that federal courts did not have the authority to impose their desegregation plans outside of the city in which the Constitutional violation occurred. In other words, Judge Garrity could not bring in Brookline (which is almost surrounded by Boston), Newton and other suburban school systems to help desegregate the Boston public schools.
I noted earlier that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts having already admitted black students received an inferior education to whites; and that it was already using some suburbs to address the problem; that it could have been argued that it was an exception to Millilken. After all cities and towns are subdivisions of a state whose borders can be altered by the state. Why then couldn’t the borders of school districts likewise be changed.
Justice Thurgood Marshall, the one African-American on the Supreme Court, said of the Millikin decision: “After 20 years of small, often difficult steps toward that great end, the Court today takes a giant step backwards.” He was referring to the Brown v. Board of Education decision that held “that segregation of children in public schools on the basis of race deprives minority group children of equal educational opportunities, and therefore denies them the equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Biden’s allegation the blacks didn’t want to go to the suburbs falls on closed ears in the black community. Biden’s suggestion he is for voluntary busing also makes little sense because the issue is busing that is required or forced. Were Biden concerned about blacks he would have not fought with Senator Brooke or would have listened to Thurgood Marshall and other black leaders who sought busing as the only possible remedy to give their children what the white children were receiving.
The successful METCO buses blacks to the suburbs, no whites are bused into the city. The busing plans confined to a city have failed because of white flight and the inability to add the suburban school districts into the mix. The white voters would never stand for it.
I’ve mentioned before how I was speaking with a law school classmate who knew I was representing the Boston School Committee. He was berating people from South Boston for not being more welcoming to black students. I knew he was from Brookline. I suggested to him that Judge Garrity had indicated that it might be necessary to incorporate the Brookline schools into the plan. He almost had a heart attack as he explained how unfair that would be to the Brookline kids.
Biden’s positions on the busing issue were in support of his white constituents over his black constituents. Does that make him a racist? Kamala Harris said no. I have a hard time seeing him otherwise. Sure he has a great civil rights record and has been in the forefront of many positions that benefit blacks but when it came to advancing their cause in his home state at the peril of losing white voter support and possibly his senate seat he demurred.
Having been there in the beginning there is little doubt that the racial factor was the major reason people opposed busing. Had the city been all white a plan to bus the poor white kids into the rich areas and the rich white kids to the poor there would be hardly a squawk. Whites would not have fled the city. I’m also convince that having decided busing was the way to go other remedies such as magnet schools were neglected. Some suggest the housing patterns were to blame for the segregated schools but then again these occurred because of actions by white in one form or another restricting the movement of blacks.
The niceties imposed on politicians to avoid being blunt (something Trump has never followed) made Harris suggest Biden is not a racist. Few in the black community will agree with her knowing Biden’s opposition to the one thing at the time that they believed would better their race. It would have other than for the Milliken decision. That busing failed did not mean that it had to fail. That busing failed was because of racism.