Washington, January 27
US President Joe Biden has signed a series of executive orders to ensure racial equity across the country, acting on one of his core campaign promises to dismantle “systemic racism” that has plagued America far too long.
While announcing the four presidential actions on Tuesday at the White House, a week after being sworn in as the 46th US President, Biden cited the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a Minneapolis police officer last May, which touched off demonstrations across the country.
Biden called the killing “the knee on the neck of justice,” and said that because of it, “the ground has shifted. It changed minds and mindsets.”
“In my campaign for President, I made it very clear that the moment had arrived as a nation where we face deep racial inequities in America and systemic racism that has plagued our nation for far, far too long,” Biden said.
Through four executive actions to advance racial equity and take first steps to root out systemic racism in housing and criminal justice, Biden renewed his administration’s commitment to making the American Dream real for families across the nation by taking bold and ambitious steps to root out inequity from the economy and expand opportunities for communities of colour and other underserved Americans.
“We have never fully lived up to the founding principles of this nation, to state the obvious, that all people are created equal and have a right to be treated equally throughout their lives. And it’s time to act now, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because if we do, we’ll all be better off for it,” Biden said at a White House ceremony to sign the executive order.
“For too long, we’ve allowed a narrow, cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester,” he said.
In an executive order, Biden directed federal agencies to combat resurgence of xenophobia, particularly against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders that he said have skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is unacceptable and it’s un-American. I’ve asked the Department of Justice to strengthen its partnership with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community to prevent those hate crimes,” he said.
He asked the Department of Health and Human Services to put out best practices for combating xenophobia in the national response to COVID-19.
He also announced to rescind the previous Trump administration’s harmful ban on diversity and sensitivity training, and abolished the offensive, counter-factual 1776 Commission.
“Unity and healing must begin with understanding and truth, not ignorance and lies,” Biden said.
Last year, former president Donald Trump ordered federal agencies to stop racial sensitivity training, labelling it “divisive, anti-American propaganda”.
Trump has previously said he does not believe systemic racism is a problem in the US.
Biden issued an executive order that will ultimately end the Justice Department’s use of the private prisons. The executive order directs the Attorney General to decline to renew contracts with privately operated criminal facilities.
“This is the first step to stop corporations from profiteering off of incarcerating—incarceration that is less humane and less safe, as the studies show. And it is just the beginning of my administration’s plan to address systemic problems in our criminal justice system,” he said.
According to the federal Bureau of Prisons, a little over 14,000 federal inmates are currently in privately managed facilities in the country. The figure was 9 per cent of total federal inmates.
In his remarks, Biden said that those eight minutes and 46 seconds that took Floyd’s life paved the way for change.
“… It stirred the conscience of tens of millions of Americans, and, in my view, it marked a turning point in this country’s attitude toward racial justice,” he said.
“When his six-years-old daughter, Gianna, who I met with when I met with the family—I leaned down to say hi to her, and she said—looked at me, and she said, “Daddy changed the world.” That’s what Gianna said—his daughter. “Daddy changed the world.” And I believe she is right,” he said.
COVID-19 has further ripped a path of destruction through every community in America, but no one has been spared, but the devastation in communities of colour has been nothing short of stunning, Biden said.
Black and Latino Americans are dying of COVID-19 at rates nearly three times that of white Americans. And it’s not white Americans’ fault, but it’s just a fact. And the Americans now know it, especially younger Americans, he said. — PTI