President Joe Biden is outlining an entire package that is intended to address systemic racism across the federal government by signing four executive actions to boost racial equity and remove any roadblocks hindering people of color or marginalized groups.
He announced on Tuesday (Jan. 26) that he will sign four executive orders that will address past federal government discriminatory policies in housing policies; order the Department of Justice not to renew contracts with private prison companies; re-establish the government’s commitment to tribal sovereignty; and condemn xenophobia toward Asian-American and Pacific Islanders.
Biden made it clear that each agency in the federal government has the expectation to carry out these actions.
“We need to make the issue of racial equity not just an issue for any one department of government, it has to be the business of the whole of government,” Biden said.
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On the first day of the new administration, former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, now White House Domestic Policy Council Chief, announced that she will lead the administration’s racial equity initiative. The administration is undertaking a “whole-of-government’ racial equity initiative that is intended to address systemic racism at the federal level. Agencies have been directed to review their individual states of equity and deliver an action plan within 200 days to deal with barriers in opportunity.
In comments to reporters on Tuesday, Rice said that “investing in equity is good for economic growth,” and described how addressing systemic racism through policy would be beneficial for the entire nation.
“Economists have estimated that the U.S. economy has lost a staggering $16 trillion over the last 20 years because of discrimination against families of color,” Rice said. “If we closed racial gaps in income and opportunity, these same economists have estimated we could add $5 trillion to the U.S. economy over the next five years and add over 6 million new jobs for all Americans.”
Regarding housing, Biden’s directive will encourage the department of Housing and Urban Development to examine the effects of previous regulatory actions from the agency that did harm to fair housing policies and laws and then take the proper action to truly implement the Fair Housing Act.
As it pertains to federal prisons, which incarcerate a disproportionate number of people of color, Biden is ordering the U.S. Attorney General to end the government’s relationships with the for-profit prison system by discontinuing additional contracts with those companies. While a new attorney general has not been confirmed, Biden has nominated former U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Merrick Garland for the position.
The administration has also directed the federal government to strengthen its relationship with Native American and Alaska Native sovereign nations and engage in regular consultation with tribal governments. Finally, Biden’s executive order addressing xenophobia targeted at Asian American and Pacific Islanders directs the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate a better COVID-19 response to those communities, and the Justice Department to respond to anti Asian-American and Pacific Islander hate crimes.
“I ran for president because I believe we’re in a battle for the soul of this nation,” said Biden, reiterating one of his campaign slogans. “And the simple truth is our soul will be troubled as long as systemic racism is allowed to persist.”