Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) created the standout moment of the second night of the first Democratic presidential debate when she confronted former vice president Joe Biden over his past stance on busing programs to desegregate schools. Below is the transcript of that exchange, with annotations (see the yellow highlights) by the Fix Team via Genius.
HARRIS: As the only black person on this stage, I would like to speak ...
NBC MODERATOR CHUCK TODD: I ...
HARRIS: ... on the issue of race.
NBC MODERATOR RACHEL MADDOW: Senator Harris ...
HARRIS: And so what I will say ...
MADDOW: If I could preface this, we will give you 30 seconds, because we're going to come back to you on this again in just a moment. But go for 30 seconds.
HARRIS: Okay. So on the issue of race, I couldn’t agree more that this is an issue that is still not being talked about truthfully and honestly. I — there is not a black man I know, be he a relative, a friend or a co-worker, who has not been the subject of some form of profiling or discrimination.
Growing up, my sister and I had to deal with the neighbor who told us her parents couldn't play with us because she — because we were black. And I will say also that — that, in this campaign, we have also heard — and I'm going to now direct this at Vice President Biden, I do not believe you are a racist, and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground.
But I also believe, and it’s personal — and I was actually very — it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country. And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing.
And, you know, 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. And that little girl was me.
So I will tell you that, on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats. We have to take it seriously. We have to act swiftly. As attorney general of California, I was very proud to put in place a requirement that all my special agents would wear body cameras and keep those cameras on.
MADDOW: Senator Harris, thank you. Vice President Biden, you have been invoked. We're going to give you a chance to respond.
Vice President Biden?
BIDEN: It's a mischaracterization of my position across the board. I did not praise racists. That is not true, number one. Number two, if we want to have this campaign litigated on who supports civil rights and whether I did or not, I'm happy to do that.
I was a public defender. I didn’t become a prosecutor. I came out, and I left a good law firm to become a public defender, when, in fact — when, in fact . ..
. . . when, in fact, my city was in flames because of the assassination of Dr. King, number one.
Number two, as the U.S. — excuse me, as the vice president of the United States, I worked with a man who, in fact, we worked very hard to see to it we dealt with these issues in a major, major way.
The fact is that, in terms of busing, the busing, I never — you would have been able to go to school the same exact way because it was a local decision made by your city council. That’s fine. That’s one of the things I argued for, that we should not be — we should be breaking down these lines.
But so the bottom line here is, look, everything I have done in my career, I ran because of civil rights, I continue to think we have to make fundamental changes in civil rights, and those civil rights, by the way, include not just only African Americans, but the LGBT community.
HARRIS: But, Vice President Biden, do you agree today — do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America then? Do you agree?
BIDEN: I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education. That's what I opposed. I did not oppose . ..
HARRIS: Well, there was a failure of states to integrate public schools in America. I was part of the second class to integrate Berkeley, California, public schools almost two decades after Brown v. Board of Education.
BIDEN: Because your city council made that decision. It was a local decision.
HARRIS: So that's where the federal government must step in.
BIDEN: The federal government . ..
HARRIS: That's why we have the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.
That's why we need to pass the Equality Act. That's why we need to pass the ERA, because there are moments in history where states fail to preserve the civil rights of all people.
BIDEN: I've supported the ERA from the very beginning when I ran for . ..
TODD: Vice President Biden, 30 seconds, because I want to bring other people into this.
BIDEN: I supported the ERA from the very beginning. I’m the guy that extended the Voting Rights Act for 25 years. We got to the place where we got 98 out of 98 votes in the United States Senate doing it. I’ve also argued very strongly that we, in fact, deal with the notion of denying people access to the ballot box. I agree that everybody, once they, in fact — anyway, my time is up. I’m sorry.
TODD: Thank you, Vice President.