Biden: “It’s Time To Act;” Addresses Racial Inequity

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden signed numerous executive actions regarding racial equity policy.

According to CNN, Biden focused on a nondiscrimination policy, prison reform, and public housing.

“It’s what the core values of this nation call us to do. And I believe the vast majority of Americans — Democrats, Republicans, and independents — share these values and want us to act as well,” Biden added during a signing ceremony at the White House with Vice President Kamala Harris in attendance. “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.”

He added that “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 referenced the protests sparked by George Floyd‘s death, an unarmed Black man who was killed by a white police officer, as having “stirred the conscious of tens of millions of Americans, and…marked a turning point in this country’s attitude toward racial justice.”

In addition to Tuesday’s executive actions, he ordered the Justice Department not to renew federal contracts with private prisons. He pledged to eliminate the government’s private prison use during his campaign, the news outlet reports.

His administration will also look at condemning and denouncing anti-Asian bias, with a specific emphasis on addressing anti-Asian bias following the coronavirus pandemic. The Department of Health and Human Services and the DOJ will work with him on this policy.

In a memorandum to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Biden said he would also “redress historical racism in federal housing policies.” While presidents have shown interest in addressing equity, Biden and his administration intend to integrate racial equity policy holistically among its domestic policy efforts.

A senior administration official told reporters on a call amid Biden’s executive action operations that private prisons’ move away was not related to cost implications. 

“The motivating factor, however, was the fact that private prisons are not only encouraged profiteering off of human lives but more importantly, I’ve been shown by the Department of Justice inspector general’s report to be subpar in terms of safety and security for those incarcerated,” the official said.

The housing memorandum will “make clear we have to acknowledge the role that the federal government has played through much of the 20th century and implementing discriminatory housing policies across the United States from redlining to mortgage discrimination, to destructive federal highway construction to redress this history,” the official said.

According to an official, Biden has also asked the Office of Management and Budget to look into “opportunities to embed racial equity in its work.”

The office–which plays a primary role in designing the administration’s annual budget proposals—was asked by the president to evaluate opportunities to allocate funding “more equitably to target groups who have been underserved or harmed by federal investments in the past’ in its annual budget submission.

Biden’s executive actions surrounding racial equity are the first among more to come. Biden is expected to issue an executive order to create a policing commission, which he promised he would work on when elected to office. Biden is also expected to execute an order to reinstate an Obama-era policy barring the transfer of military equipment to local police agencies.

According to Susan Rice, a White House domestic policy adviser, the policing and criminal justice reform plans will be addressed in the upcoming weeks. 

Biden’s executive action seems to be an attempt to revise the wrong he has since admitted as some of his shortcomings. Biden was one of the 1994 crime bill authors that set strict federal sentences and led to a period of mass incarcerations. 

In a 1993 Senate floor speech speaking in favor of the crime bill, Biden warned of “predators on our streets.”

“We have predators on our streets that society has, in fact, in part because of its neglect, created,” Biden said. “They are beyond the pale many of those people, beyond the pale,” Biden continued. “And it’s a sad commentary on society. We have no choice but to take them out of society.”

Now it appears he is turning a new leaf, “You know I’ve been in this fight for a long time. It goes not just to voting rights. It goes to the criminal justice system,” Biden said on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2019. “I haven’t always been right. I know we haven’t always gotten things right, but I’ve always tried.”

About Crystal Gross

A college graduate. Crystal is a paralegal working on her Masters Degree.

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