During Joe Biden first term as U.S. Senator from Delaware, his home state, like much of the nation, confronted a bitter battle over desegregation busing.

The 1970s practice, also known as busing, involved relocating students to new schools to overcome the effects of racial segregation.

Biden spearheaded efforts in Delaware to fight against sending white children to majority-black schools and vice versa – playing down the effects of institutional racism. (Washington Post)

“I do not buy the concept, popular in the ’60s, which said, ‘We have suppressed the black man for 300 years and the white man is now far ahead in the race for everything our society offers. In order to even the score, we must now give the black man a head start, or even hold the white man back, to even the race,’ ” Biden told a Delaware-based weekly newspaper in 1975. “I don’t buy that.”

Biden’s statements 44 years ago represent one of the earliest chapters in his well-documented record on racial issues, during which he generally has worked alongside African-American leaders and been embraced by them. He supported the extension of the Voting Rights Act, amendments to the Fair Housing Act, sanctions against apartheid South Africa and the creation of a holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. In 2010, he pushed to roll back sentencing that many believed exacerbated racial disparities.

But Biden and civil rights leaders also have occasionally parted ways, and his career probably would be viewed through a new lens if he decides to run for president in a Democratic Party that has moved to the left and grown more ethnically diverse, even in the years since he was elected vice president.

African-American voters are expected to play a pivotal role in the party’s nomination in 2020, and groups such as Black Lives Matter are pressing candidates to confront difficult questions about race. Although many civil rights leaders agree that busing did not play out in an ideal way, they often say it was a necessary effort, given that white-run school districts were doing little to integrate even 20 years after the Supreme Court’s 1954 landmark desegregation ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.

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