On Tuesday, Jan. 26, President Joe Biden signed four executive orders to increase racial equity across the nation and help dismantle systemic racism.
These consecutive orders seek to strengthen housing policies that were weakened under the Trump administration and halt contracts with private prisons on the behalf of the Department of Justice. These executive orders also seek to increase the sovereignty of Native American tribes, and combat violence, xenophobia, and the anti-Asian bias that is being directed at those of Asian American and Pacific Islander descent due to the pandemic’s supposed origin in China. They have also encouraged federal agencies to make public education regarding the pandemic, a part of their COVID-19 response.
“I’m not promising that we can end it tomorrow, but I promise you that we’re going to make strides to end systemic racism, and every branch of the White House and the federal government will be part of that,” Biden said on the administration’s plans to dismantle systemic racism. Civil rights groups, while acknowledging Biden’s efforts, say that they are far from enough in addressing racism enrooted in American society. Several civil rights groups are saying that they want Biden to redirect resources to reduce disparities in educational and economic settings in addition to overhauling the criminal justice system.
Currently, African-Americans trail behind Caucasian-Americans in every economic measure, from income to employment to home-ownership. This is due to government-sanctioned policies that continue to discriminate against the African American population in lending, schooling, housing, and criminal justice.
Lisa Rice, President and Chief Executive of the National Fair Housing Alliance, said that civil rights organizations have laid out detailed timelines for actions they expect the administration to participate in and by when they hope the “executive orders [will] come into fruition.”
In keeping with the administration’s promise to promote racial equity, Biden has nominated, among others in his cabinet, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is especially important because home-ownership has long been an essential part of amassing wealth, especially amongst Americans. As of 2020, 46% of African American families own homes, compared to the 75% home-ownership rate amongst Caucasians—a gap that continues to widen.
When one of us is lifted up, we’re all lifted up, and the corollary is true—when any one of us is held down, we’re all held back,” Biden said in response to criticism about showing favoritism with his emphasis on racial justice.