In the first Democratic debate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris and former vice president Joe Biden clashed over the government’s use of mandatory school busing in the 1970s, with Harris saying Biden opposed busing of the kind that affected her when she was a girl. Biden said he opposed federally mandated busing.
The program that took Harris to school in the 1970s was voluntary, and Biden never explicitly took aim at this type of program. But he was a harsh critic of using busing programs to achieve racial integration. He called such plans racist and asinine. He said they would ensure mediocrity.
In 1975, he said of forced busing: “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!”
Biden now draws a distinction between forced and voluntary busing, but it doesn’t change the full-bore nature of his attacks in the ’70s.