Signing executive orders to combat discrimination, President Joe Biden pledges action against “systemic racism” in all areas of US society.
Biden’s latest orders increase enforcement of a law against discrimination in the housing market, end Justice Department contracts with private prisons, establish Federal Government’s policy to “condemn and denounce” discrimination against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, and strengthen relationships between the Government and Native American tribes.
He pledged to “restore and expand the Voting Rights Act” and “to fight back against laws that many states are engaged in to suppress the right to vote, while expanding access to the ballot box for all eligible voters”.
The President went farther in his address before signing the orders, pointing to a comprehensive effort to challenge a US history of discrimination and inequality: “I’m not promising we can end it tomorrow, but I promise you, we’re going to continue to make progress to eliminate systemic racism….Every branch of the White House and the federal government is going to be part of that effort.”
Biden began with last May’s catalyst for mass marches, the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis:
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.
It stirred the conscience and tens of millions of Americans. And in my view, it marked a turning point in this country’s attitude toward racial justice.
He continued with attention to economic deprivation, the Coronavirus pandemic — “Black and Latino Americans are dying of COVID-19 at rates nearly three times that of white Americans “— and the Capitol attack on January 6:
One of the reasons I’m so optimistic about this nation is that today’s generation of young Americans is the most progressive, thoughtful, inclusive generation that America has ever seen. And they are pulling us toward justice in so many ways, forcing us to confront the huge gap in economic inequity, between those at the top and everyone else, forcing us to confront the existential crisis of climate. And yes, forcing us to confront systemic racism and white supremacy.
Susan Rice, Ambassador to the UN and National Security Advisor under President Barack Obama, will lead the Biden Administration’s effort as head of the Domestic Policy Council.
Rice said in her press conference on Tuesday that action over criminal justice and policing will be presented in the coming weeks.
Just after he was inaugurated last week, Biden ended Donald Trump’s “Muslim Ban” on entry to the US for citizens from six mainly-Muslim countries. He signed an order for the Federal Government to pursue diversity and address barriers to opportunities in policies and programs, reversing the Trump Administration’s ban. And he disbanded the “1776 Commission”, created as part of Trump’s attempts to undermine the 1619 Project examining the history of slavery and racial issues in the US.