Rev. Jesse Jackson undercut the defense former Vice President Joe Biden has been making about his longstanding opposition to busing.
Jackson told Politico that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) had exposed the former vice president during the first Democrat debate for being “on the states’ rights side of history”—a position he claimed “cannot stand the test of time.” He further expressed that Biden’s attempts to downplay his record by saying he never opposed “voluntary busing” missed the bigger issue of why federal agencies had to mandate school desegregation in the first place.
“He’s for voluntary busing, I’m for court-ordered busing — well, everyone’s for voluntary busing,” Jackson said. “The federal government had to order the abolition of slavery, the federal government had to order the right to vote, they had to order the desegregation of schools and jobs and contracts.”
“So ‘voluntary’ assumes that those who are oppressive have some will to move based on moral values, and that does not happen,” he added.
The remarks come only days after Biden addressed Jackson’s Rainbow/Push Coalition gathering in Chicago, Illinois. Biden’s surprise appearance at the event was viewed by many as an attempt to clarify his civil rights record after Harris delivered a fiery rebuke of his recent praise for segregationists and views on busing during the Democrat debate.
“I heard and I listened to and I respect Senator Harris,” Biden told the gathering. “But we all know that 30 seconds and 60 seconds on a debate exchange can’t do justice to a lifetime committed to civil rights.”
The former vice president further argued that he “never ever” opposed voluntary busing to desegregate public schools.
“I’ve always been in favor of using federal authorities to overcome state initiated segregation,” Biden said, mentioning his vote against the Gurney amendment in 1974, which would have banned federal courts from mandating busing to counter segregation.
Biden’s comments to the Rainbow/Push Coalition, however, stand in stark contrast to those he made on the topic to a local Delaware newspaper in 1975.
“I oppose busing,” he said. “It’s an asinine concept, the utility of which has never been proven to me… I’ve gotten to the point where I think our only recourse to eliminate busing may be a constitutional amendment.”
Biden further expressed that busing, if allowed to continue, would only serve to aggravate racial tensions in America.
“The real problem with busing,” he said, is that “you take people who aren’t racist, people who are good citizens, who believe in equal education and opportunity, and you stunt their children’s intellectual growth by busing them to an inferior school . . . and you’re going to fill them with hatred.”
At the time, Biden recognized his views effectively put him in the same camp as avowed segregationists and against civil rights leaders like Jackson.
“The unsavory part about this is when I come out against busing, as I have all along, I don’t want to be mixed up with a George Wallace,” he said.
Jackson made a similar note when he first weighed in on the issue Friday, saying that Biden was on the “wrong side of history” when it came to busing.