Biden aims to advance racial equity with executive actions

  • By Brian Naylor/NPR

(Washington) — President Biden is signing executive actions Tuesday on housing and justice reforms, measures the White House says will uphold one of his core campaign promises: to advance “racial equity for Americans who have been underserved and left behind.”

In a tweet Tuesday morning, Biden said the actions will “push us closer to that more perfect union we’ve always strived to be.”

Biden will sign four executive actions that will:

  • direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development “to take steps necessary to redress racially discriminatory federal housing policies;”
  • direct the Department of Justice to end its use of private prisons;
  • reaffirm the federal government’s “commitment to tribal sovereignty and consultation;”
  • and combat xenophobia against Asian American and Pacific Islanders.

Domestic policy adviser Susan Rice told reporters that “advancing equity is a critical part of healing and of restoring unity in our nation.”

Rice cited a 2016 Department of Justice inspector general’s report that she said found private prisons are “less safe, less secure and arguably less humane.” She said Biden is committed to reducing incarceration levels “while making communities safer,” which she said starts with not issuing any new federal contracts for private prisons. But Rice said the order does not apply to private prisons used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The White House says the presidential memorandum on housing directs HUD to “examine the effects of the Trump administration’s regulatory actions that undermined fair housing policies and laws,” and the measure also “recognizes the central role the federal government has played implementing housing policies across the United States, from redlining to mortgage discrimination to destructive federal highway construction, that have had racially discriminatory impacts.”

The Biden administration says the executive action on tribal sovereignty shows its commitment “to re-establishing federal respect for Tribal sovereignty, strengthening the Nation-to-Nation relationship between the federal government and American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes, empowering self-determination, and advancing racial justice for Native communities.” The order, the White House says, “reinvigorates the commitment of all federal agencies to engage in regular, robust, and meaningful consultation with Tribal governments.”

Biden’s presidential memorandum on Asian American and Pacific Islanders establishes that the policy of the administration “is to condemn and denounce anti-Asian bias and discrimination.”

Hate crimes against Asian Americans rose along with the spread of the novel coronavirus, which emerged from China. Former President Donald Trump routinely referred to it as “the China virus.”

The memorandum directs the Department of Health and Human Services “to consider issuing guidance describing best practices to advance cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity towards AAPIs in the federal government’s COVID-19 response.” It also directs the Department of Justice to work with Asian American and Pacific Islander communities “to prevent hate crimes and harassment against AAPIs.”

Tuesday’s measures continue Biden’s rollout of more than 20 executive actions in his administration’s first days.

One executive action signed last week requires all federal departments and agencies to look for ways to address racial equity.

And a senior government official, who spoke to reporters Tuesday morning on the condition of not being identified, said “this is not the end of our work on racial equity,” adding “we’ll have a lot more work to do in the coming weeks and months.”

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »

Up Next
National & World News

Nursing home critics say COVID-19 immunity laws are a free pass for neglect