"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Joe Biden's Lies and Unacknowledged Contribution to Resegregation

Joe Biden has said that "there are a lot of people who would say it [busing] hasn’t been the best remedy to integrate schools."  The people who say that, of course, are, like Joe Biden, opposed to busing, for whatever reason.  In the end, the reason does not matter because the documented racist result is the same, regardless of intent or motivation.

Whether Joe and the "lot of people" are correct in their claim that busing is an ineffective way to desegregate schools remains debatable, but the issue of busing presents us with at least one incontrovertible truth: those who have opposed busing have made significant contributions to the resegregation of schools.  That would include Joe Biden and anyone else whose intentions could be suspect or as pure as the driven snow.  The manifestations of racism are determined by policy talk and implementation, not by intentions.  We all know what the road to hell is paved with.

Richard Nixon, who was president when Joe Biden got started on the national political stage, knew that opposition to busing was an effective way to appeal to racists, both Southern and Northern, who were enraged by Lyndon Johnson's Great Society initiatives.  Anti-busing was an important piece of Nixon's "Southern Strategy," with Nixon going so far as to instruct his Attorney General, John Mitchell, to send him only Supreme Court candidates who were opposed to school busing.

Nixon got his conservative majority on the Court, which immediately went to work in 1974 dismantling, by a 5-4 vote, a busing plan in Detroit (Milliken v. Bradley) that was based on one in Charlotte, NC (Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education) that had been tested and found constitutional by the Supreme Court just a couple of years before.

First elected to the U. S. Senate in 1972, Joe Biden was watching all this unfold and making his own political calculations at the time.  Even if his heart might have been somewhere else, in the end Biden's words and deeds followed Richard Nixon and the racism he inspired:
Joe Biden, the youthful and telegenic senator from Delaware, also played an important role in this history. According to historian Matthew F. Delmont in his indispensable book "Why Busing Failed," Biden labeled busing a "bankrupt concept" that defied "common sense" and would go on to sponsor anti-busing amendments in the Senate. Biden faced the dilemma of Northern liberals of the era who generally supported national civil rights legislation, yet found themselves on unstable ground when these issues struck closer to home. Biden chose, like many of his political contemporaries, to be on the wrong side of history. In 1974, the year after Biden came to the Senate, the Supreme Court -- in Milliken v. Bradley -- struck down a busing plan in Detroit, saying it was "wholly impermissible" to bus white children who lived in the suburbs into inner-city schools to integrate schools. 
As a result of the Milliken decision, the white rush to the suburbs picked up steam, and school desegregation efforts in subsequent years were further neutralized by court decisions and legislative efforts, like the stringent Senate bill introduced in 1975 by Jesse Helms and supported by Joe Biden.

The chart below is an update from data gathered by Gary Orfield.
In a detailed analysis of busing's effectiveness (spoiler alert--it works), Nikole Hannah-Jones shows that Biden lied about his role in the anti-busing wave of the 70s and 80s:
After Mr. Nixon’s win in 1968, white Democrats were trying to hold on to their white voters. Mr. Biden favored busing for integration when he ran for election in 1972, but changed his mind seemingly because of a Delaware school desegregation case that was working its way through the courts. In his autobiography, Mr. Biden recalled his confrontation with a crowd of white constituents teetering on the brink of violence over the issue. 
Mr. Biden flipped. Between 1975 and 1982, he teamed up with ardent segregationists in Congress, including Mr. Eastland, to support no fewer than five antibusing measures. Despite Mr. Biden’s recent claims that he only opposed busing ordered by the Department of Education, the bills tried to curtail the ability of federal courts to order busing and even to limit busing in places where courts had already ordered it.
 Lying is a big issue, but the bigger issue here is Biden's ignorance or disregard for the devastating effects that the demise of busing has had in terms of efforts to achieve integrated schools.  Biden's decades of opposition to busing helped to lead us to where we are today, with the resegregation of urban schools, in particular, now almost complete.  

Even during the 8 years of Obama-Biden, they did nothing to stop or slow this resegregation trend in the years just before Trump.  In fact, their support for the even-more-intensely segregated charter schools skyrocketed during the Obama years and led to the further debasement of public education. After looking like a fool at the recent debate and spending a few days on defense, now Joe has moved to a cautious offensive position, declaring just today that "I don't have to atone."   Maybe not, Joe, but you do have to acknowledge reality.  Or maybe not.

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