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Let’s not return to the days of George Wallace

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

We need to know our political history and reflect upon the leadership we desire to take us forward.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., was correct in pointing out that, at a crucial point in our history, former Vice President Joe Biden sided with those who would make school desegregation more difficult. In the late 1960s, the federal courts and the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare were compelling school districts nationwide to integrate. A giant advance came in a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in the 1968 Virginia case, Green v. New Kent, eliminating dual local systems and requiring substantial systemic integration. The best tool to do this, most often in urban areas, was to implement the forced busing of many students.

Busing was approved in a unanimous Supreme Court 1971 decision (Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg). It was the instrument necessary to bring true school integration. Biden was not alone in opposing it. And Biden has a strong mainstream civil rights record. But it’s unfortunate that he today will not acknowledge his failure to take a progressive leadership role at that time.

It is especially important at this time that Democrats reflect modern America’s human rights values, that we recognize injustices past and present and make clear our commitment to future opportunities and equity. I remember Alabama’s Gov. George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door and proclaiming “Segregation forever.” As a presidential candidate in 1964 and 1968, he won large numbers of white votes in both the South and the North. I never thought we would return to those days.

At the recent Democratic debates, we saw several candidates capable of gaining national approval and taking back the White House. Democrats must choose well.

Ben Ragsdale.


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