Video: Kamala Harris Is Asked Why She Doesn't Hate White People, Appears Caught Off Guard

MSNBC's Chris Matthews appeared to catch California Senator Kamala Harris by surprise when he asked her how she came out of her experiences as a black child without a hatred of white people.

Matthews interviewed Harris following NBC's second Democratic debate with 2020 presidential candidates, during which she clashed with former Vice President Joe Biden over his record on segregation.

The senator and former prosecutor told Matthews about the time a white child said she could no longer play together because Harris is black.

She said such memories are "very painful emotionally" for those who have them, like herself, which is why she described Biden's comments as "hurtful."

"How did you come out of that and not have hatred towards white people generally?" Matthews asked. Harris, who is married to a white man, initially struggled to find any words in response.

She replied: "Most Americans do not conduct themselves that way and most parents do not conduct themselves that way, so there was no need to create a broad application because of that one experience.

"But we cannot deny that there are many children, black children in America, who have had that experience. Children of color who have had that experience, be they Latino, Asian, or black. That has happened, that happens in America."

Kamala Harris 2020 debate Joe Biden
Democratic presidential hopeful US Senator for California Kamala Harris speaks to the press in the Spin Room after the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, June 27, 2019. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

During the debate, a visibly emotional Harris drew on her childhood to attack Biden for his recent comments about working with segregationists in Congress to get things done, as well as his stance on busing.

Harris was bused to school in California as part of the policy, which sought to promote integration.

Under busing, children in areas heavily concentrated with one ethnic group were transported to schools in areas dominated by a different ethnicity to their own.

Biden said he did not oppose busing, but rather the enforcement of it on states by the federal government's Department of Education.

He also defended his record on civil rights, and said Harris had pushed a "mischaracterization" of his positions.

Harris hit back that it is the role of the federal government is to step in when states fail, citing the Civil Rights Act as an example.

Earlier in June, Biden had made comments to fundraisers at a New York event about working during the 1970s and 1980s with Senator James Eastland of Mississippi and Senator Herman Talmadge of Georgia, who were Democratic segregationists.

"Well, guess what? At least there was some civility," Biden said. "We got things done. We didn't agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished.

"But today, you look at the other side and you're the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don't talk to each other anymore."

Matthews asked Harris if she felt Biden's answers to her criticism of him were adequate.

"I would like to hear him acknowledge what was wrong about a perspective on busing that was a perspective that I believe he had at that time," Harris said.

"Busing was part of what was necessary to integrate the schools of America, and to then fall back on well what's the state's responsibility versus the federal government, that leaves the need to really address the fact that it was just wrong.

"And it dispenses with also the relevance of the federal government to step in on civil rights issues where states have failed, which is why we had the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act."

The headline on this article has been updated.