News Release

When Joe Biden Collaborated With Segregationists

Former Vice President Joe BidenThe New York Times reports in “Biden, Recalling Civility in Senate, Invokes Two Segregationist Senators,” that at a Tuesday night fundraiser, Biden spoke fondly of his relationship with the late Senator James O. Eastland of Mississippi, a staunch segregationist. Eastland was the powerful chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee when Biden entered the chamber in 1973. “I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Mr. Biden said, slipping briefly into a Southern accent, according to a pool report from the fundraiser. “He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.’”

The Washington Post reports Wednesday morning: “Biden’s campaign didn’t immediately return a request for comment about why it would be notable that the Dixiecrat — who thought black Americans belonged to an ‘inferior race’ and warned that integration would cause ‘mongrelization’ — didn’t call Biden ‘boy,’ a racial epithet deployed against black men.” See new piece from Slate: “Meet James Eastland, the Senator Joe Biden Keeps Waxing Nostalgic About.”

JONATHAN KOZOL, jonathankozol at gmail.com
Available for a very limited number of interviews, Kozol is the National Book Award-winning author of Savage InequalitiesThe Shame of the Nation, and other books on race and education. Just recently, he wrote the piece “When Joe Biden Collaborated With Segregationists.”Kozol writes: “Crucially, Biden didn’t just talk the anti-busing talk. He also took a leading role in fighting what he called ‘unnecessary busing’ by pushing bills that would have forced the federal government to consider other ways of equalizing education — ways that would not have required what old-fashioned bigots used to call race mixing. In a series of letters, recently released by CNN, that he wrote to Dixiecrat Senator James Eastland in 1977, Biden expressed thanks to Eastland for supporting anti-busing legislation that Biden introduced.

“’I want you to know that I very much appreciate your help … in attempting to bring my anti-busing legislation to a vote,’ he wrote the Mississippi Democrat, a virulent opponent of civil rights who frequently referred to black people as ‘an inferior race.’

“Biden, moreover, did not simply reinforce the efforts of Southern segregationists. He also took a decisive role in fueling opposition to desegregation efforts in Northern states and providing Northern liberals with a convenient rationale for joining him in these attempts. In a stunning piece of reportage in Politico in 2015, historian Jason Sokol surfaced Biden’s argument that busing children for the sake of integration was an insult to black people because it implies that they ‘have no reason to be proud of…their own culture’ and cannot learn unless they’re sitting next to a white child. By dragging out this chestnut, Biden sought to turn the tables on Senate integrationists. …

“Senator Ed Brooke, a liberal Republican who served two terms representing Massachusetts and was the sole black member of the Senate at the time, was outraged by Biden’s stance. ‘Perhaps,’ says Sokol, ‘Brooke foresaw the new political consensus that would take shape in the ensuing decades: Liberals would pay homage to the civil rights movement and its dream of integration, but refrain from championing the legislation that would make that dream a reality.’ …

“Unlike Bernie Sanders, who recently proposed a Thurgood Marshall Plan for public education that calls for a renewal and expansion of desegregation plans by means of transportation, Biden still believes his original position was correct and, according to one of his aides, Bill Russo, sees no reason to revise it. No matter how he tries to blur the edges of his past or present beliefs, no matter how he waffles in his language in order to present himself as some kind of born-again progressive, Biden has not shown that he can be trusted to confront our nation’s racist past and one of its most urgent present needs.”