Biden launched an anti-busing screed

Updating to add: the piece is from 2015. I saw that but then did other things before posting, by which time…

Politico does a backgrounder on Biden and school busing to correct for generations of racial apartheid.

Though the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision had outlawed “separate but equal” schools, it wasn’t until the court’s lesser-known 1969 ruling in Alexander v. Holmes County that many Southern school districts actually implemented desegregation plans. In response to these legal mandates, judges started to order busing plans in some Southern cities.

For fifteen years – more than the sum of kindergarten through 12th grade – Brown v Board might as well have been a poem on The Rose for all the good it did in most places. A whole generation got nothing from it. Little Rock was the exception rather than the rule.

Meanwhile, Northern schools still remained thoroughly segregated. Housing segregation frequently produced segregated schools, and many urban school boards enacted transfer and redistricting policies to keep them that way.

One solution is to desegregate neighborhoods, but even if the will is there (which it wasn’t), that takes time. The other is to bus students into other neighborhoods.

The first busing case to reach the Supreme Court was Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg County. A district court had ordered busing in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the plan in April 1971, on the grounds that the Constitution required “the greatest possible degree of actual desegregation.” The court admitted that the remedies for segregation might be “awkward, inconvenient, and even bizarre in some situations and may impose burdens on some.” But the Constitution clearly required such impositions.

And so a grievance was born.

Busing was indeed “awkward” and “inconvenient” for students. Today, the anti-busing arguments guide our policies. In many cities, the “neighborhood school”—itself a product of redlining, housing segregation and discriminatory school transfer policies—remains sacrosanct. But we forget that through the 1960s and 1970s, local school boards and urban whites often resisted every other attempt at school and housing integration. With their resistance, they narrowed the options down to two: busing or segregation.

And white people kept choosing segregation.

Each year from 1966 to 1977, the U.S. House of Representatives passed at least one new law designed to restrain school integration—often in the guise of anti-busing legislation. Until 1974, the Senate rejected those bills. But as white resistance to busing escalated in many cities across the country, the House’s anti-busing majority began to pull more senators to their side.

Where was Biden at the time? His first term in the Senate?

Biden had begun to develop a convoluted position in which he supported busing as a remedy for “de jure segregation” (as in the Jim Crow South), while he opposed busing in cases of “de facto segregation” (as in Northern cities). Through his first two years in the Senate, he supported most—but not all—of the anti-busing legislation.

Then he faced an angry crowd of anti-busing constituents. He adjusted his position.

Biden launched an anti-busing screed. “I have become convinced that busing is a bankrupt concept.” The Senate should declare busing a failure and focus instead on “whether or not we are really going to provide a better educational opportunity for blacks and minority groups in this country.” He praised Ed Brooke’s initiatives on housing, job opportunities and voting rights. In one breath, Biden seemed to reject busing in the North and the South, and claimed that he was committed to equal opportunity for African Americans.

Brooke asserted that the federal government should attempt other integration remedies before resorting to busing. “But if compliance with the law cannot be achieved without busing, then busing must be one of the available desegregation remedies.” Brooke introduced a motion to table Helms’ amendment. Brooke’s motion passed, 48-43. Biden wouldn’t budge, and voted with Jesse Helms and the anti-bussers.

Brooke had fought this fight before, but he would face a more formidable adversary in Joe Biden. When a Southern conservative like Helms led the anti-busing forces, Ed Brooke could still rally his troops. But it would be tougher to combat the anti-busing faction when its messenger was a young liberal from a border state.

And that young liberal stuck with his position.

You can say that was a long time ago and surely it’s not all that relevant now. But why say that? It’s not as if Biden is the only possible candidate, much less the best. He shafted Edward Brooke, he shafted Anita Hill, he stole a campaign speech from Neil Kinnock, he gropes little girls, he doesn’t treat his staff well, and he apparently still thinks we owe him the presidency. Why him? No reason, that I can see.

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