The presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden once heaped praise on staunch segregationist George Wallace and even boasted he received an award from him. Not something to be proud of in the present environment of upheaval over inequality between blacks and whites.
Racially segregated private schools were privileged with tax-exempt status in the late ’70s, and Biden voted for them to keep their status. Civil rights groups at the time criticized him for his stance, and it set the Carter administration against him.
Biden supported segregation as a senator
In 1979, Biden was one of 54 senators who voted for the “Dornan rider,” which barred the IRS from repealing the special tax-exempt privilege afforded to segregated private schools. They were referred to as “white flight academies,” after the Supreme Court ruled in 1954 to allow integration in public schools.
There were many occasions during the 1970s and 1980s when Sen. Biden was seen actively opposing efforts to desegregate students in federal schools.
Biden’s stance against racial equality has become an important issue in today’s tumultuous world, where black people are striving for equality, with their unrest reaching far back into history. What began as peaceful protests under the banner of Black Lives Matter has turned violent.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who is now a possible candidate as Biden’s running mate, called his work with pro-segregation senators during the Democratic primary as “hurtful,” Black Southern voters were instrumental in securing Biden his presidential nomination, however, their support could be eroded by the racial inequality movement that is sweeping America.
Sen. Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.), who introduced the amendment to remove the Dornan rider, stressed at the time that segregated private schools “continue routinely to get tax exemption to which under law or morality they are not entitled,” reported the Free Beacon.
Biden voted for the Dornan rider
Biden’s vote set him at odds with the American Civil Liberties Union, the Urban League, and the Department of the Treasury at the time.
“Maintaining the Dornan amendments in the Treasury Appropriations bill would be a major blow to civil rights,” the ACLU said in a statement at the time.
According to the Urban League the Dornan rider “would stymie the first serious attempts by the IRS to enforce the law precluding tax exemptions for private schools which practice racial discrimination.”
During the 1970s, Biden strenuously opposed the federal busing policy to desegregate public schools.
In 1975, Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) sponsored an amendment to block the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare from collating data of the racial makeup of schools. It was supported by Biden, and when it failed, Biden went on to introduce a similar amendment.
“There are those of we social planners who think somehow that if we just subrogate [sic] man’s individual characteristics and traits by making sure that a presently heterogeneous society becomes a totally homogeneous society, that somehow we’re going to solve our social ills,” Biden said in a 1975 NPR interview about his objections to busing. “And quite to the contrary,” reported 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,” he added.
When running for president in 1987, Biden often would proudly boast about his opposition to busing when giving speeches in Southern states, and once said, “We [Delawareans] were on the South’s side in the Civil War.”
Biden told the Philadelphia Enquirer on Oct. 12, 1975, “I think the Democratic Party could stand a liberal George Wallace—someone who’s not afraid to stand up and offend people, someone who wouldn’t pander but would say what the American people know in their gut is right,” in reference to the racist then-Alabama governor.