As Joe Biden gets closer to announcing his 2020 intentions, ghosts from the former vice president’s decades-long public career are resurfacing.
Most recently, the Washington Post on Thursday tracked down remarks Biden made during interviews from the 1970s in which he expressed strong opposition to a tactic for desegregating public schools that was gaining traction in his home state of Delaware and across the country. At the time, Biden argued that placing black children in the same school as white children through the controversial busing program wasn’t the answer to desegregating schools or providing equal access to quality education.
But the way argued his points is a far-cry from what would be acceptable in the 2019 Democratic Party.
“The new integration plans being offered are really just quota systems to assure a certain number of blacks, Chicanos, or whatever in each school. That, to me, is the most racist concept you can come up with,” Biden said in a 1975 interview highlighted by the Post. “What it says is, ‘In order for your child with curly black hair, brown eyes, and dark skin to be able to learn anything, he needs to sit next to my blond-haired, blue-eyed son.’ That’s racist! Who the hell do we think we are, that the only way a black man or woman can learn is if they rub shoulders with my white child?”
At an Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in January of this year, Biden clarified his position, per the Post: “It is true that the white man has suppressed the black man, and continues to suppress the black man. It is harder to be black than to be white. But you have to open up avenues for blacks without closing avenues for whites; you don’t hold society back to let one segment catch up. You put more money into the black schools for remedial reading programs, you upgrade facilities, you upgrade opportunities, open up housing patterns. You give everybody a piece of the action.”
Civil rights leaders have acknowledged that the busing program did not produce the positive outcomes that officials hoped it would at the time. But busing was a vital first step in forcing majority-white school districts to actually follow the Brown v. Board of Education ruling.
Biden declined to speak to the Post on Thursday, but his spokesperson Bill Russo pointed to Biden’s storied record on advocating for civil rights and reiterated that Biden at the time was pushing for a a better approach to providing quality education for all students regardless of zip code.
Read the Post’s full report here.