So I should confess to begin with that I really can’t stand Kamala Harris. As I say quite often on Twitter, her voice is as grating as Hillary Clinton’s, and it’s astonishing she doesn’t remind everyone of their least favorite ex-girlfriend or a really obnoxious seventh grade social studies teacher. What everyone else saw as passion in her debate, I saw as a windup doll whose string had been pulled.
But never mind that. As I write this, the consensus opinion among GOP analysts (Jonah Goldberg being the only demurrer I’ve seen) is that Harris poleaxed Biden when she said:
Clearly, her team had planned this carefully, up to and including using an altered image that makes her look like a black child of poverty.
But more to the point, why wasn’t every GOP analyst and every conservative reporter up in her face about it?
Harris lied, for one thing. Or at least implied, that we all might infer.
She was not the second class to be integrated at Berkeley public schools. The Berkeley school district, like most districts in California since Mendez vs Westminister, enrolled by neighborhood. Berkeley High School had always been integrated because it was the only high school in the district. After nearly a decade of black community pressure, junior high schools had been integrated in 1964. Berkeley High had tremendous racial tensions throughout the sixties, caused not by white segregationists but demands by emboldened black radicals. (I’m not saying that’s a bad thing).
After the school board survived a recall vote by opponents, they decided to work more slowly to integrate the elementary schools. This gave white opponents time to leave, and many of them did. (Prior to this white flight, Berkeley was a primarily conservative town; the liberals banded together with blacks to gain control. ) However, many other progressive whites moved to Berkeley to support the idea of voluntary integration, so the white population stayed the same. Notably, the black population didn’t increase: blacks in unintegrated Oakland stayed put rather than move to Berkeley.
Four years later, in 1968, the elementary schools were integrated via busing, with the black children in the Berkeley “flats” traveling to the mostly white schools of the hills, and vice versa. Kamala Harris was in the second class of integrated elementary school students. (all of this is easily sourced, but this book goes into the most detail) While the elementary integration is generally considered successful, it hasn’t done anything to improve the achievement gap or de facto segregation.
All she had to do was insert one word in between “public” and “schools”. There’s no question that Berkeley’s elementary school integration was notable for its two-directional busing and its smooth implementation. 1960s Berkeley was still discriminatory; it’s unlikely Harris’s academic mom could have lived outside the flats, thanks to redlinining practices. High school students were tracked ruthlessly, although most reports suggest accurately. Blacks weren’t doing well at Berkeley High, and Berkeley itself wasn’t the enlightened tolerant place it is today.
But to acknowledge that she wasn’t breaking color barriers would have ruined the narrative. How else could she hint at the horrors of racism if not to suggest that even liberal Berkeley was forcibly keeping black kids in black schools until she and her peers boldly broke the color lines?
Harris could rest assured that no mainstream media outlet would object to her lie. Factcheck.org supported her lie, even as it revealed the truth. This way, Harris could pretend that there but for the grace of liberal courts, her legal career would have been denied her.
The second part of Harris’s claim is ludicrous as well as dishonest. Her parents were academics, not working class or uneducated blacks. Her father was gone by that time, but Harris lived a very nice life even if her mother chose to live in the Berkeley flats while working at Cal. Given her parents’ background, how likely is it that the Harris sisters would have gone to a bad school?
Denied a professorship at Cal, Harris’s mother uprooted the family and took them to Canada for a new job, also in academia. Harris graduated from a Quebec high school.
So Harris is lying about the environment that gave her a bus ride, and pretending that going to a partially white elementary school when she was seven is all that prevented her from being a dropout or, god forbid, a teacher.
None of this is terrible. It’s just irritating in that no one picked up on the lie. Everyone accepted it, even though the misstatement is well-documented. Everyone allows her to pretend that busing is why she’s AG and a Senator.
But what I’m more puzzled and aggravated by is all the Republican pundits gleefully celebrating, or at least enjoying, the purported slam dunk of Biden. Ha, ha! Look, there’s Harris, a black woman, taking Biden apart for opposing busing when she was bused! It’s perfect! Wow, what timing! What elan! Harris wins!
It’s all about the gotcha and its entertainment value.
And I’m sitting here thinking what the hell? Busing? Busing was a disaster. Much of the country hated busing. Joe Biden took the lead on busing because he’d have been a one-term Senator if he didn’t. Read about the anger and the white flight throughout the 70s that resulted when cities tried to forcibly desegregate neighborhood schools and end de facto segregation and Biden’s position becomes obvious.
No one else seemed to notice, though. Even conservatives like Mollie Hemingway, Comfortably Smug, and Hugh Hewitt were gleefully celebrating Harris’s body blow based, from what I can tell, purely on hahahaha she’s black, he’s old, she’s using his decades old vote to catch him out on changing times.
Every conservative I follow was rightly stunned at the entire slate’s support for open borders. As Ari Fleischer put it:
But most people were so wowed by this comment that they don’t seem to think about what it meant:
And there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bussed [sic] to school every day. And that little girl was me. So I will tell you that on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats. We have to take it seriously. We have to act swiftly.
…..It’s a failure of states to integrate public schools in America. I was a part of the second class to integrate Berkeley, California, public schools almost two decades after Brown v. Board of Education.
That’s where the federal government must step in.
Look, Americans who aren’t dealing with immigrants every day often don’t completely grasp what it’s like, and go squishy on things like border control or amnesty.
In contrast, they are entirely clear on the intrusive, invasive ways the federal government can “step in” to order schools. And they don’t like it one bit.
Go ahead, Kamala, you brave truth teller, you survivor of segregated Berkeley discrimination. Tell all those Dem voters how busing is what America’s schools need to achieve the necessary diversity. Tell them how you’ll appoint judges who’ll overrule Milliken, allow states to mandate integration across districts.
Tell white working class voters the Dems still need in order to win, all those rich white progressives who purport to love people of color so long as some other school is being integrated, not theirs. Tell low income African Americans to forget about those charter schools they like so much, because your great integration plan means they’ll be unnecessary. Trumpet your plans to mandate school systems like San Francisco, where racial quotas determine where and how far each child will be sent away from home. While you’re at it, explain how this system resulted in far more segregation.
Go ahead and tell people that your plan will end segregation as the government sorts populations based on race, just like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 planned all along.
But best of all, go tell Asians all about your great plans. Tell all those parents at those 80, 90% Asian public schools you plan to yank half of the kids out and send them into the inner cities with all sorts of poor black and Hispanic kids. Go ahead and tell Asian immigrants that they can’t cluster and dominate in certain schools, tested or otherwise.
This is a community that sent out a 12 year old girl to say, in public: “If I work hard, shouldn’t I have an advantage over those who don’t even try?…It’s just not right for me to work hard and do my best while others are being lazy.”
And even after that, the New York legislature backed down on deBlasio’s plan to open up the schools to the kids that girl called lazy.
These are people who brought enormous, angry pressure on a Palo Alto school district when the board wanted to name a school after a Japanese American who fought for his country. As immigrants who think of themselves only as Chinese, the opponents looked at an American and saw only a hated enemy from Japan. They won, too.
Raise your hand, everyone who thinks Asian immigrants are going to give the smallest iota of a rat’s dropping about Kamala Harris’s guilt trips? Go grab some popcorn, I say.
I hope Andrew Ujifusa or one of the other Edweek reporters will run with this opportunity hound Harris relentlessly with:
“Senator Harris, you’ve opposed charters throughout your career. In the debate, you strongly supported busing. Are you planning on ending charter schools so you can more easily enforce busing mandates? Will you appoint judges who will overrule the ban on inter-district busing?”
She would have to choose. She could walk back her insistence that the federal government must intervene to enforce school integration. Or she could explain how she’s going to implement country wide integration by taking away all choice from America’s parents.
I don’t understand politics, I know, but for the life of me I don’t understand why every politician from Trump on down to dogcatcher isn’t tweeting about Harris’s plan. Then hound every other Dem candidate and force them to fight that battle for her. Harris will be oh so very popular.
“If you like your school, too bad. Democrats won’t let you keep it.”
Note: I teach in a school that may as well have been formed by Harris’s mandate, so integrated and diverse it is. I like it fine. I just live in a reality-based world most of the time.