What is Busing? Joe Biden Forced to Defend Record on Segregation In Face of Kamala Harris Attacks

Senator Kamala Harris drew the loudest applause of the night after she confronted former Vice President Joe Biden for opposing busing in Wilmington, Delaware.

"I do not believe you are a racist," the 54-year-old senator said to Biden. "And I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground.

"But I also believe, and it's personal, it was hurtful, to hear you talk about the reputations of two U.S. senators 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. 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. And that little girl was me."

Biden responded by saying that his past actions were mischaracterized. "I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed was busing ordered by the Department of Education," he explained.

After the exchange, Google searches for the term busing spiked by 3,150 percent.

Google Trends: Searches for busing have spiked +3,150% since the issue was raised by Harris in #DemDebate2.

— MSNBC (@MSNBC) June 28, 2019

What is busing?

Also called desegregation busing, the term refers to the American practice of alleviating racial segregation by transporting students to schools within or outside their local districts.

U.S. schools were technically desegregated by the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954, however, continued housing issues meant that many American schools across the country remained largely segregated.

Biden's history with busing

Since launching his 2020 bid for the presidency earlier this year, Biden has repeatedly come under fire for taking a stance against busing in the 1970s. When he was a freshman Delaware senator, Biden opposed the integration method and championed an anti-busing campaign in the Senate. According to CNN, Biden also sought to work alongside Southern segregationists in his fight against busing.

In an interview with a local Newark, Delaware newspaper, rediscovered by The Washington Post in March, Biden suggested that the government-backed plan would "even the race" but "insure mediocrity" by holding whites back.

"I am philosophically opposed to quota systems," he said.

"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 added in the1975 interview. "I don't buy that."

Biden's record on race has been under intense scrutiny in the past week after he celebrated the fact that he was able to work with two segregationist senators, adding that one "never called me 'boy'; he always called me 'son.'"

Newsweek reached out to Biden team for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Kamala Harris
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden (2ndL) speaks while South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (L-R) , Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) listen in the second night of the first Democratic presidential debate on June 27, 2019 in Miami, Florida. Drew Angerer/Getty