On Tuesday, January 26, 2021, President Biden signed into place four Executive Orders to promote and advance racial equity and support underserved communities. Unlike the mainly individualist American mentality, Biden rebuked America as a “zero-sum game” where “if one of us wins, one must lose.” Instead, Biden emphasized that racial equity must be an issue for all of the government to address as opposed to one singular department. In this “all in this together” approach, Biden signed four Executive Orders:
- Advance Fair Housing.
- Reform our Incarceration System to End the Use of Private Prisons.
- Reaffirm the Federal Government’s Commitment to Tribal Sovereignty and Consultation.
- Combat Xenophobia Against Asian American and Pacific Islanders.
First, Biden ordered the Department of Housing and Urban Development to enact Fair Housing Act requirements fully. Second, Biden ordered that the Department of Justice, specifically the Attorney General, not renew contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities. Third, Biden urged federal agencies to engage with Tribal governments more meaningfully, regularly, and, overall, strengthen the Nation to Nation relationship “between the federal government and American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes”. Fourth, Biden directed the Department of Health and Human Services and COVID-19 health equity task force “to consider issuing guidance describing best practices to advance cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity towards [Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders] in the federal government’s COVID-19 response.” This is an effort to combat and condemn racism and xenophobia against AAPIs in the U.S.
At the beginning of his signing, Biden opened with a few statistics and facts:
- COVID-19 disproportionately affects people of color.
- 40% of frontline workers are people of color.
- Black and Latino Americans are dying of COVID-19 three times the rate of their white counterparts.
Yet, Biden also notes that there have been some positives within the last year:
[T] oday’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.
Like the youth in our nation, Biden calls us now as Americans, saying that “now is the time to act” because “faith and morality” are calling us to do so.