Kamala Harris Challenges Joe Biden On His Record On Race: ‘It’s Personal’ 

Drew Angerer/Getty Images North America

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) landed several blows on former Vice President Joe Biden at the Democratic debate in Miami on Wednesday.

The most bruising one came in a lengthy exchange on Biden’s record on busing, an issue that has attracted scrutiny after the longtime senator discussed on the campaign trail the productive relationship he was able to develop with segregationist senators.

“It’s personal and it was actually very hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country,” Harris said. “It was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing.”

Harris told the story of a young girl in California who was in the second class to be integrated at her public schools and who had to be bused to her school.

That little girl was me,” Harris said. “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.” 

Biden claimed Harris was mischaracterizing his positions. He denied praising racists and touted his record on civil rights with an implicit shot at Harris, a former prosecutor: he noted he worked as public defender rather than a prosecutor before becoming a politician. He then tried to clean up his record on bussing by saying that he had thought it was “fine” if it was ordered by the local government.

I did not oppose busing. What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of  Education,” he said.

Harris didn’t back down.

There was a failure of states to integrate public schools in America,” she said, noting that her school in California did not integrate until almost two decades after the Supreme Court outlawed school segregation.

“There are moments in history where states fail to preserve the civil rights of all people,” Harris said.

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