Story at a glance
- On his first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order addressing equity within the federal government.
- Racial inequity has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, and threats of white supremacy loomed large over the presidential election and inauguration.
- The Biden administration has promised to make racial equity a priority.
The threat of white supremacy loomed large over President Biden’s inauguration, just two weeks after the insurrection on the United States Capitol. And while the Biden administration, composed of a historically diverse cabinet, has taken swift action, the work of overturning centuries of racial inequity has just begun.
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Each day this week has been given a theme by the Biden administration, starting with "Buy American" day on Monday and continuing with "Equity" day today, The Hill reported, which focuses largely on the criminal justice system and incarceration. The president is reportedly expected to establish a policing commission, reinstate Obama-era rules on the transfer of military-style equipment to local law enforcement and direct the Department of Justice to address prison conditions and stop using private prisons.
The executive order President Biden signed on his first day in office directed federal agencies to review their internal "state of equity" and asked the Office of Management and Budget to allocate federal resources to "empower and invest in communities of color and other underserved communities." The administration has promised to make racial equity one of its top priorities in the White House, going beyond the federal government to "criminal justice reform, end disparities in healthcare access and education, strengthen fair housing, and restore Federal respect for Tribal sovereignty."
Among the actions President Biden is expected to take include memos directing agencies to strengthen engagement with Native American tribes and ordering the Department of Housing and Urban Development to promote equality in housing. Another disavows discrimination against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, which faced an outbreak of xenophobia along with that of COVID-19, which former President Trump often referred to as the "Chinese virus," citing its origins in Wuhan.
The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected Black, Indigenous, Latino and other nonwhite populations as well as the LGBTQ+ community while simultaneously exacerbating existing racial inequity, and the full extent of its effects is still unknown. In another executive order, President Biden established a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force within the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure "an equitable pandemic response,” starting with the collection of racial data that has until now been fragmented by state.
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