1977: Joe Biden Worried Busing Would Lead to a ‘Racial Jungle’

What Joe Biden said about school busing amendment in 1977
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden claimed that busing to achieve school integration would lead to his children being raised in a “racial jungle.”

Biden, who has recently come under fire for praising segregationists, appears to have made the comments during a Senate committee hearing in 1977 while debating a busing measure. At the time, Biden was a first term Senator facing tough reelection prospects in his home state of Delaware, where the issue of busing was particular contentious.

“Unless we do something about this, my children are going to grow up in a jungle, the jungle being a racial jungle with tensions having built so high that it is going to explode at some point,” Biden said shortly after making a plea for “orderly integration.” “We have got to make some move on this.”

The remarks, first reported by the New York Times on Monday, appear to have been found by Daria Roithmayr, a professor at University of Southern California Gould School of Law. It is unclear exactly which legislation Biden’s remarks were meant to address, as there were many busing proposals floating around in 1977. Neither Roithmayr nor Biden’s campaign returned requests for comment before press time.

Despite the background remaining murky, Biden’s remarks at the hearing are similar to those he expressed during an interview with a local Delaware newspaper in 1975 while discussing the issue of busing.

“The real problem with busing,” he said—after claiming it was an “asinine concept” — was 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.”

Biden openly admitted his views placed him on the same side as avowed racists and segregationists.

“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.

This remarks have come back into the spotlight as the former vice president is facing increasing scrutiny for his record on civil rights.

At the first Democrat presidential debate last month, Biden was confronted by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) for praising the “civility” of two ardent segregationists, the late-Sens. James Eastland (D-MS) and Herman Talmadge (D-GA). Biden invoked the two men while touting his record of being able to fashion “consensus” within Congress.

“I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground,” Harris said, “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 built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.”

Although Biden had mentioned the segregationist Democrats before, he never discussed exactly what they were able to accomplish together. Harris, though, was quick to point out at the debate that both Talmadge and Eastland were allies in his campaign against busing.

“It was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose bussing,” she said. “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… we have to take it seriously.”

Biden attempted to defend himself, but only proceeded to muddle his stance on busing and falsely claim to never have praised racists in the first place.


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