President Biden on Tuesday signed four executive orders aimed at furthering racial equity in the U.S., one of his main campaign platforms.
“Now's the time to act. … It's what the core values of this nation call us to do,” Biden said at an event recognizing the orders that was held at the White House's State Dining Room.
“We've never fully lived up to the founding principles of this nation … that all people are created equal and have a right to be treated equally throughout their lives,” he said.
Biden began his remarks by evoking the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by Minneapolis police in May, sparking a summer of nationwide protests demanding the end of systemic racism.
Floyd died after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, even after he was clearly unconscious.
Biden said that the video of Floyd being choked out “opened the eyes of millions of Americans and millions of people around all over the world.”
Biden first signed a memorandum directing the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to “redress historical racism in federal housing policies.”
The order includes the reintroduction of an Obama-era add-on to the 1968 Fair Housing Act known as the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule.
The provision, put in place in 2015 but then rolled back by the Trump administration in July, requires jurisdictions that receive federal funding to look for and analyze patterns of housing discrimination and then present a plan to address the practices if they exist.
The next two orders that Biden signed eliminates the federal use of for-profit prisons — a big progressive policy point — and “reinvigorates the commitment of all federal agencies to engage in regular, robust, and meaningful consultation with Tribal governments.”
Finally, Biden signed a directive “condemning and combating racism, xenophobia and intolerance against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.”
It comes in response to former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE regularly referring to COVID-19 as the “China virus,” which was widely criticized as xenophobic.
Additionally, it tells the Department of Health and Human Services to work with the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to develop best practices for rooting out bias in the federal government’s pandemic response.
The new administration has been continuously pressed by civil rights groups to make racial equity for people of color, especially Black Americans, a top priority along with combating the coronavirus.
Multiple groups acknowledged that while there was more work to be done, Tuesday’s executive actions were crucial first steps in the right direction.
“Following four years of the Trump administration turning a blind eye to racial inequity and injustice at every turn, we are pleased that this new administration is centering its focus around issues impacting the lives and reality faced by people of color in this country,” Dorian Spence, director of Special Litigation and Advocacy at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a statement.
David Fathi, director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project, praised the end of the federal government utilizing private prisons, saying, “The order signed today is an important first step toward acknowledging the harm that has been caused and taking actions to repair it, but President Biden has an obligation to do more, especially given his history and promises."