Former Vice President Joe Biden said the 2020 presidential race “shouldn’t be about the past” Friday before defending his civil rights record.
“I want to be absolutely clear about my … position on racial justice, including busing. I never, never, never ever opposed voluntary busing,” Biden said at the Rainbow Push Coalition event in Chicago.
“I did support federal action to address root causes of segregation in our schools and communities, including taking on the banks and red-lining and trying to change the way in which neighborhoods were segregated,” Biden said.
Biden was confronted on all sides during Thursday night’s Democratic primary debate. California Sen. Kamala Harris hit Biden for past positions on school busing and desegregation. Harris said she was one of the girls who had to deal with segregation on school buses.
Biden said he “heard and listened to” Harris, but a short debate exchange could not “do justice on a lifetime of commitment on civil rights.”(RELATED: Harris, Near Tears, Slams Biden On School Busing)
Biden also said the race’s discussion should not be focused on the past.
“Folks, the discussion in this race shouldn’t be about the past,” Biden said. “We should be talking about how we can do better, how we can move forward, how we can give every child in America the opportunity for success stories.”
“I know, you know, I fought my heart out to ensure that civil rights and voting rights, equal rights, are enforced everywhere,” Biden said. “These rights are not up to the states to decide — they’re our federal government’s duty to decide. It’s a constitutional question to protect the civil rights of every single American. And that’s always been my position.”
Biden also targeted Trump in his speech, echoing remarks he made during Thursday’s debate. Trump “promotes hate and division,” Biden said.
“He’s yet to apologize or criticize the Ku Klux Klan or the white supremacists,” Biden said. “Look, we have a president who promotes hate and division. He has encouraged the poison of white supremacy. Our children are watching. Barack was a president our kids not only could, but did, look up to.”
Biden’s comments on school integration, however, have not always been entirely consistent, according to the Washington Examiner.
“I think the concept of busing … that we are going to integrate people so that they all have the same access and they learn to grow up with one another and all the rest, is a rejection of the whole movement of black pride,” Biden said in a 1975 interview, the Examiner reported.
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