“Unless we do something about this, my children are going to grow up in a jungle, the jungle being a racial jungle with tensions having built so high that it is going to explode at some point. We have got to make some move on this.”

Joe Biden (1977)

In 1977, Joe Biden opposed mandatory busing of black and white students to desegregate schools. He argued that without ‘orderly integration,’ his children would grow up in a racial jungle.

Now President Joe Biden has tried to argue that his history of opposing busing is being misrepresented, but let’s dig a little deeper to see the facts behind this quote.

The Facts

Old picture of then Senator Joe BidenDuring a congressional school busing hearing in 1977, Joe Biden made the above remarks about his children growing up in a racial jungle. The quote was first discovered by Daria Roithmayr who is a University of Southern California Law School scholar and professor. It was then published and made public by a New York Times story on Biden’s history of opposing mandatory busing.

The NYT piece also argues that “Mr. Biden has said that his record on school desegregation has been misrepresented. […] But a review of hundreds of pages of congressional records, as well as interviews with education experts and Biden contemporaries in Wilmington and Washington, suggests that his opposition to busing was far more sweeping than he has led voters to believe.”

“I oppose busing […] It’s an asinine concept, the utility of which has never been proven to me.”

Joe Biden (1975)

During the late 1970s, Biden was seen as the Democratic parties’ crusader against busing and even went as far as siding with segregationists such as Jesse Helms, the North Carolina Senator, to put forward an anti-busing amendment to the education spending bill that year.

Joe Biden’s backing of anti-busing legislation emboldened other Democrats to do the same.

“This is the real problem with busing […] You take people who aren’t racist, people who are good citizens, who believe in equal education and opportunity, and you stunt their children’s intellectual growth by busing them to an inferior school, and you’re going to fill them with hatred.”

Joe Biden (1975)

According to The New York Times, in 1976, then Senator Joe Biden introduced a bill that would prevent the Department of Justice from going after desegregation cases that might lead to court-ordered busing. And in 1978, Biden backed a series of several bills that threatened to strip federal courts of their right to deal with desegregation entirely.

“No issue has consumed more of my time and energies […] We want to stop court-ordered busing.”

Joe Biden (1981)


People hold up signs calling for integrated schools and civil rights
Demonstrators hold up signs calling for integrated schools and civil rights

Democratic Debates & Kamala Harris

Before becoming his running mate and then Vice President, Kamala Harris had no qualms about attacking Joe Biden’s seemingly racist past history of opposing busing. Harris got a big jump in the polls after ruthlessly attacking Joe Biden during the Democratic debates on June 27, 2019 for his previous positions and quotes on busing. She evoked her own personal history with the practice:

“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.”

Kamala Harris (2019)

While she added that she believes Joe is “not racist”, her attacks seemed to insinuate she believes Biden had no qualms about supporting racist policies and working alongside racist segregationist colleagues in House & Senate. At the time she also stated that she “believes” the women who had come forward claiming that Joe Biden had touched them inappropriately.

Long Lasting Impacts of Anti-Busing Policies

In 1995, the policy of busing ended in Wilmington, Delaware where Joe Biden was a sitting Senator. The state passed a law forcing students to attend the school closest to their home. Since that time, Wilmington schools have become even more segregated according to a study by UCLA.