The Legacy Of Busing And School Desegregation

The Legacy Of Busing And School Desegregation

4:28pm Jul 09, 2019
Democratic Presidential Candidates Participate In First Debate Of 2020 Election Over Two Nights
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and former Vice President Joe Biden (L) speak as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) looks on during the second night of the first Democratic presidential debate.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senator Kamala Harris told the nation a story two weeks ago.

Here is what she said.

And I will say also that — that, in this campaign, we have also heard — and I’m going to now direct this at Vice President Biden, I do not believe you are a racist, and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground.

But I also believe, and it’s personal — and I was actually very — it was 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. And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing.

And, you know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.

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.

On the debate stage in Miami, Vice President Biden called Harris’ remarks a “complete mischaracterization” of his position.

But Harris’ story catalyzed a national conversation about what school integration means and how to achieve it in 2019, when “millions of black and Latino children” experience the “the consequences of racial and economic segregation,” according to The Los Angeles Times.

Could some form of busing work today? Or is the problem of school segregation even more deeply rooted?

Busing has a complex and, in some cases, violent history.

And often, criticism of busing doesn’t even explicitly refer to the action at hand.

From The Washington Post

“The protests all fixate on this word ‘busing.’ Protesters never say they don’t want to go to school with black kids,” said Matthew F. Delmont, a history professor at Dartmouth College who has studied the history of busing. “They would say they are for desegregation but against busing.”

We explore the past, present and future of busing.


Dennis D. Parker, Executive director, National Center for Law and Economic Justice; @dennisdparker

Erica Frankenberg, Professor of education, director at the Center for Education and Civil Rights, Penn State; @e_frankenberg

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