The Democratic National Convention featured a woman wearing a “that little girl was me” shirt during Wednesday’s primetime coverage — a phrase popularized after a contentious July 2019 primary debate in which Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) blasted Joe Biden (D) for praising segregationist senators, both Democrats, and accused Biden of working with them to oppose busing.
During Wednesday night’s primetime lineup, the DNC featured a young woman wearing a shirt with a photo of a young Harris in pigtails. The shirt was recognizable to many, as she raised $2 million in 24 hours after selling the shirts on her campaign website following a heated debate with Biden, who ultimately chose her as his running mate:
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) August 20, 2020
During that debate, Harris busted Biden for praising the civility of late Democrat segregationist senators James Eastland (D-MS) and Herman Talmadge (D-GA), 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,” Harris said.
“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,” she continued.
“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,” she added.
Biden desperately attempted to dismiss her criticism, accusing Harris of mischaracterizing his record.
“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,” he added, denying that he opposed busing.
“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,” he said, urging everyone to look at “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,” he added.
Harris’s campaign capitalized on her line of the night, selling shirts featuring a young Harris for $29.99.
Harris, whom Biden selected as his running mate, has since put her criticisms behind her, literally laughing off the primary spats during a recent chat with Late Show host Stephen Colbert.
“How did that transition happen? How do you go from being such a passionate opponent on such bedrock principles for you, and now, you guys seem to be pals?” Colbert asked.
“It was a debate,” Harris said laughing.
“Not everyone landed punches like you did, though,” Colbert pressed as Harris continued to laugh:
“It was a debate,” she said again, still laughing.
“So, you don’t mean it?” Colbert asked.
“It was a debate,” she said, emphasizing the word “debate” repeatedly. “The whole evening, literally, it was a debate. It was called a debate. There were journalists covering the debate.”