Joe Biden recently became the 46th President of the United States of America and his first weeks of presidency have been full of executive orders addressing issues such as climate change, COVID-19, racial inequality and more. Seventeen of which were signed just hours after his inauguration – these included revoking the ‘Muslim Ban’ and halting the construction of Trump’s border wall with Mexico.
According to CNN, Biden has assembled together the most diverse cabinet in US history, and has instructed ‘his nominees at the Justice Department to prioritize civil rights and to root out racism and prejudice to apply equality under the law for all Americans.’ He has ordered agencies to review and report on equity in their organizations within 200 days, reporting on the potential barriers for underserved communities and individuals and root out what needs to be done to advance equity in agency programs and actions. This order also aims to ensure that all Americans have equal access to federal resources, benefits, resources, services, opportunities and so forth.
The briefing on the presidential action found on the White House’ website, stated: ‘by advancing equity across the Federal Government, we can create opportunities for the improvement of communities that have been historically underserved, which benefits everyone. For example, an analysis shows that closing racial gaps in wages, housing credit, lending opportunities, and access to higher education would amount to an additional $5 trillion in gross domestic product in the American economy over the next 5 years.’
In a recent press briefing, Biden’s domestic policy advisor Susan Rice discussed Biden’s executive actions to promote racial justice reform and provided evidence that the reformation of equality would lead to U.S. economic growth. Rice said, “the President has committed the whole of our government to advance racial justice and equity for all. These aren’t feel good policies, the evidence is clear — investing in equity is good for economic growth and it creates jobs for all Americans.”
Rice cited figures from Citigroup in September 2020, stating that the U.S. economy had lost $16 trillion over the last 20 years because of discrimination. Eliminating discrepancies and closing gaps in income and opportunity could “add $5 trillion to the U.S. economy over the next five years, and over six million new jobs for all Americans.”
Rice also said: “for too many American families, systemic racism and inequality in our economy, laws and institutions still put the American dream far out of reach. Today, the average Black family has one-tenth the wealth of the average white family.”
Biden and his team revealed an agenda that apparently went further than familiar racial issues such as policing and discrimination. Biden signed four new executive orders on racial injustice on Tuesday 26th of January. One order addressed historical racism in housing federal policies – promoting fairer housing and rooting out actions that “undermined fair housing policies and laws” in order to implement new requirements. Another order looked to end the use of and reliance on private prisons – barring the justice department from renewing contracts with private prison operators.
In another move, Biden ordered the federal government to retain a dialogue with tribal governments, aiming to promote “tribal sovereignty and consultation” and finally, the fourth order aims to combat the xenophobia and harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific islanders, ordering the justice department to work with Asian American and Pacific Islander communities to fight harassment and hate crimes.
Rice told reporters: “These [orders] are a continuation of our initial steps to advance racial justice and equity through early executive action. Beyond this, the president is committed to working with Congress to advance equity in our economy, our criminal justice systems, our healthcare systems, and in our schools.”
In his speech whilst signing the orders, Biden looked at how COVID-19 had affected minority communities disproportionately “40% of front-line workers — nurses, first responders, grocery store workers — are Americans of color,” before noting that, “1-in-7 families of color … reported that they don’t have enough food to eat — in the United States of America.” Blacks and Latinos he said were “dying of COVID-19 at rates nearly three times that of white Americans. It’s not white Americans’ fault, it’s just a fact.”
Speaking on the horrific act of police brutality that led to the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota last year, Biden said: “What many Americans didn’t see or simply refused to see couldn’t be ignored any longer. Those eight minutes and 46 seconds that took George Floyd’s life opened the eyes of millions of Americans and millions of people around all over the world. It was the knee on the neck of justice, and it wouldn’t be forgotten.”