His words echoed those of a number of activists at the height of the summer protests against systemic racism. Biden administration officials say the executive orders are just one of several steps the president plans to take to tackle racial differences. Because of this, both Biden and the racial justice advocates advocate changing the perspective of leaders in the same way: as a good first step.
Biden’s mandates are a positive sign that he is ready to address racial inequalities, proponents say, and they plan to keep him and other Democrats moving forward with their policies that affect color communities.
“I see this as an exceptional first step,” said Nse Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project. “You say you can’t fix what you haven’t faced. And how we get there is the job.”
Tuesday’s four executive ordinances were drawn up in collaboration with the White House Legal Adviser and the Justice Department and policy makers. Previous Democratic governments, said a senior Biden official, have taken steps to eradicate racial inequalities, but none has engaged multiple federal agencies at the same time to have a large and immediate impact.
“What makes this different is that it has never been done before,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“Every part of the White House, every agency in all of their work, not in a silo, not in an office for diversity, justice and inclusion, but in everything they do,” said the official, “is mandated to examine and to move forward. ” Equity and then held accountable for it. “
The Biden government has appointed the Home Affairs Council to coordinate these efforts. Under the direction of former Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice, the council will largely focus its efforts on racial justice. It has also made the eradication of white supremacy part of its indictment. During Tuesday’s press conference, Rice said the council would have a relationship with the National Security Council to investigate the threat of internal extremism from white supremacist groups and intend to make policy proposals accordingly.
“We take it very seriously,” she said.
Rice’s allies said she was uniquely equipped for her mission thanks to her national security measures and ties to previous presidential administrations. She will have the power to push Biden to deliver, they say.
“Too many executives often think,” That’s not my job. ” [to advance racial equity in their everyday work]”Said David Clunie, executive director of the Black Economic Alliance, which Rice previously served on the board of directors.” It will take someone like Susan Rice to make racial justice an everyday priority for all government leaders and even point out ways to use their platform to to promote racial justice. “
Black voters broke historic turnout records to help Democrats win the presidency and the Senate although they are among the most severely affected by the virus and resulting economic downturn, black patients are almost three times more likely to die from the coronavirus, while most of the minority companies were among the last received financial support under the Paycheck Protection Program.
And activists are still planning to promote the Biden Harris administration from inside and outside political circles. Organizers of the Movement for Black Lives cite the role they played in securing the White House for Democrats and plan to use whatever means at their disposal to translate the demands of their protests into politics. This includes the passage of key parts of the BREATHE Act that would channel funds from law enforcement agencies into color communities.
But while Biden has begun fulfilling his promises to show up for color communities, the most impactful work will be taking place in Congress. When he signed the Executive Orders, Biden also called for the restoration and extension of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would protect voter access. Additionally, Congress Democrats say they plan to reconsider police reform in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and pass laws to protect minority-owned companies.
Black Lives Movement organizers say the Biden-Harris government warmed them up – to a point. In the weeks leading up to the inauguration, Black Lives Movement organizers met with the Biden-Harris transition team to discuss their agenda for the first 100 days.
Patrisse Cullors, co-founder and executive director of the global network Black Lives Matter, said she was encouraged to see that the language Biden used in his guidelines on eliminating discriminatory hiring practices was borrowed from the text of the BREATHE Act, the cornerstone of the movement .
“Especially as people trying to change this country, it’s important that we take the time to hold these meetings,” said Cullors. “Now the time has come when we put all our intentions on the table … we know they are listening and pushing some of the demands we have made.”
Other aspects of the executive order are boons to organizers and attorneys. Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party and organizer of the Black Lives Movement, said he was encouraged by the “speed and aggressiveness” with which Biden signed executive orders, particularly those that saw what he and other activists saw undoing than the more egregious policies of the Trump administration: the Muslim travel ban, the transgender military ban, abandoning the Paris climate agreement.
“In all of these areas, blacks, working people, and people of color have particular perspectives, interests, and agenda items,” he said.
Laura Barrón-López contributed to this report.