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Biden signs executive actions on racial equity, puts an end to private prisons

The president argued that advancing racial equity and providing equal opportunity would boost the economy for all Americans.

Biden signs executive actions on racial equity, puts an end to private prisons
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: US President Joe Biden signs three documents in the Presidents Room following the 59th inaugural ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden has signed four executive actions aimed at advancing racial equity. Biden had promised swift action on various issues including addressing the racial inequity as part of his election campaign and has wasted no time in implementing them. He used his powers to sign executive powers within days of taking office. Biden's executive actions directed the Department of Housing and Urban Development to "take steps necessary to redress racially discriminatory federal housing policies that have contributed to wealth inequality for generations," reported NBC News. Biden issued orders to put an end to the use of private prisons by the Justice Department among other things. One executive action directed the federal government to "pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality."



"For too long we’ve allowed a narrow, cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester," Biden said in a speech ahead of signings. Biden's announcement on the back of a year that saw racial tensions that rose on the back of the killing of George Floyd. “What many Americans didn’t see or simply refused to see couldn’t be ignored any longer,” said Biden, reported The Guardian. “Those eight minutes and 46 seconds that took George Floyd’s life opened the eyes to millions of Americans and millions of people all over the world. It was the knee on the neck of justice and it wouldn’t be forgotten. It stirred the consciousness in millions of Americans and in my view it marked a turning point in this country’s view toward racial justice.”

DENVER, CO - JUNE 06: Thousands of people listen as Denver Broncos players speak at a protest for the death of George Floyd on June 6, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. This is the 12th day of protests since George Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody on May 25. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)


The president argued that reducing the gap in racial income and providing fair opportunities to minorities would boost the economy for all Americans. "When we lift each other up, we're all lifted up. And the corollary is true as well — when any one of us is held down, we're all held back," said Biden. Susan Rice, Biden’s domestic policy adviser, estimated that closing racial gaps in income and opportunity would add $5 trillion to the economy over the next 5 years. Biden also stated that all federal agencies and White House offices would be tasked with tackling inequality. “We’ll hold the federal government accountable for advancing racial equity for families across America,” said Susan Rice, Biden’s domestic policy council director. Biden tasked the Office of Management and Budget department to assess “whether underserved communities and their members face systemic barriers in accessing benefits and opportunities available.”



The White House said it will not renew private prison contracts only entered into with the Justice Department but will continue the contracts of privately-operated immigration detention centers with the Department of Homeland Security. The White House stated that it was "just the start" and added that Biden in "committed to working with Congress to pass bold legislation that advances racial equity, including increasing funding for small businesses, investing in Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions, and tripling funding for Title I schools, which serve a majority of low-income students."



Biden also acknowledged that Black people paid a steeper price during the pandemic and promised to rectify that. "The pandemic has shone a bright light on racial disparities in health and health care — as Black and Brown Americans have suffered and died from the coronavirus at rates far higher than white Americans. The economic crisis has hit Black and Brown communities especially hard," said Biden as he laid out his plan for addressing the discrimination on his website. “The president has put equity at the center of his response to the Covid-19 and economic crises,” said Rice.



"Building a more equitable economy is essential if Americans are going to compete and thrive in the 21st century," said Rice at a press conference. "I believe we all rise or fall together. Advancing equity is a critical part of healing and restoring unity in our nation. Every agency will place equity at the core of their public engagement, their policy design and, delivery to ensure that government resources are reaching Americans of color in all marginalized communities — rural, urban, disabled, LGBTQ+, religious minorities, and so many others," added Rice.

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