U.S. Senator Kamala Harris went after Joe Biden prosecutor-style on race and busing, bringing her personal life story into it. Some people are calling the exchange the “debate’s defining moment.”
The dramatic exchange occurred during the second night of the first Democratic primary debate. Biden, the former vice president, has enjoyed a strong lead in the polls, but in recent weeks, he’s been increasingly challenged over his past positions and votes, especially on the topic of race. (See a fact check of Harris’s busing and integration claim here.)
You can watch Kamala challenge Biden here:
The exchange continued.
The memes and jokes flew, with many on Twitter saying that Kamala got the best of Biden in the exchange.
Here’s what you need to know:
Harris Brought Up Her Childhood Busing Story
Kamala Harris spoke directly to Biden.
“I do not believe you are a racist,” Harris said, directing her comments toward Biden. “…But I also believe and it’s personal and …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… 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 school, and she was bused to school every day and that little girl was me. So, I will tell you that on this subject it can not be an intellectual debate among Democrats. We have to take it seriously. We have to act swiftly.” (Harris is the daughter of immigrants; her father is from Jamaica and her mother was from India. You can read more about her family background here.)
When it was his turn to talk, Biden accused Harris of “mischaracterizing my position across the board. I didn’t praise racists.” Biden mentioned that, early in his career, he chose to be a public defender, not a prosecutor.
“Do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America? Do you agree?” Harris asked.
Biden added, “I did not oppose busing in America. I opposed busing ordered by the Department of Education.” He repeatedly referred to the ability of Harris to be bused to school as a child as a “local” decision by a city council.
“There was a failure of states to integrate public schools in America,” Harris continued.
Biden then launched into a defense of his record on race overall. He said, “I have supported the ERA from the beginning. I’m the guy who defended the Voting Rights Act for 25 years. I have argued very strongly that we deal with the notion of denying people access to ballot box.”