Thursday during the Democratic candidates’ debate on MSNBC, Vice President Joe Biden smacked back at Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) for her criticisms of his comments about working with segregation senators and voting for bussing in the 1970s.
Harris was a prosecutor, both as District Attorney of San Francisco and Attorney General of California.
Partial transcript as follows:
HARRIS: 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. There is not a black man I know, be he a relative, a friend or a coworker who has not been the subject of profiling or discrimination. My sister and I had to deal with the neighbor who told us her parents couldn’t play with us because we were black. I will say also that in this campaign we have also heard and I will 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 it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senator who is built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country. It was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose bussing. There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bussed to school every day. That little girl was me. So I will tell you that on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among to take it seriously. We have to act swiftly. As Attorney General of California, I was proud to put in place a requirement that all my special agents would wear body cameras and keep those cameras on.”
BIDEN: It’s a mischaracterization of my position across the board. I do not praise racists. That is not true. Number one. Number two, if we want to have this litigated on who supports civil rights, I’m happy to do that. I was a public defender. I was not a prosecutor. I left a good firm to become a public defender. When in fact my city was in flame because of the assassination of Dr. King. Number one. Number two, as 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 the issues in a major, major way. The fact is that in terms of bussing, the bussing, you would have been able to go to school the same 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 be breaking down the lines. The bottom line here is, look. everything I have done in my career, I ran because of civil rights and continue to think we have to make fundamental changes and those civil rights, by the way, include not just African-Americans, but the LGBTQ community”
HARRIS: But do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose bussing in America then? Do you agree?”
BIDEN: I did not oppose bussing in america. what i opposed is bussing ordered by the differently education. That’s what I—
HARRIS: 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 vs Board of Education
BIDEN: because your federal government made that decision.
HARRIS: And federal government must step in and pass the Equality Act and need the pass the ERA. There are moments in history where states fail to preserve the civil rights of all people.
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