US Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at the William "Hicks" Anderson Community Center in Wilmington, Delaware on July 28, 2020. (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

President Biden issues executive orders promoting racial equity days after assuming office

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Less than a week after being sworn-in, President Joseph Biden issued four executive orders in an attempt at “advancing racial equity.” This includes eliminating privately owned incarceration facilities, strengthening the sovereignty of Native American tribes, and combating racism against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The Executive Orders of the Biden Administration have revoked a number of Trump Administration Policies and organized a comprehensive set of policies aimed at enhancing diversity and equity. 

On January 19, one day before the Presidential Inauguration, Biden was promptly approached by the civil rights organization National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) who published a comprehensive list of recommendations for the new administration titled “Black America Policy Recommendations for Biden Administration.” This lists was compiled with several requests to bring racial justice. One of its central demands includes limiting the deployment of the Police and law enforcement officers in schools. However, the president hasn’t commented on this, after months of protests from the public demanding to “Defund the Police.” 

Among other major demands by the NAACP is one that calls for the cancellation of all student debt. However, Biden has stayed far away from that ideal, indicating that he will eliminate only $10,000 of debt per borrower. He has paused all federal student loan payments until September 2021 as part of the COVID-19 response, but there is no indication of his administration canceling the student loan debt entirely. Biden’s nominee for the education secretary, Miguel Cardona, has not yet revealed any concrete policies that might come into effect under the new administration. His only focus, at the moment, seems to be on reopening schools. 

Biden does recognize a variety of measures aimed at ensuring equal opportunity. For instance, eradicating color blindness from federal datasets, and revoking an executive order issued by former President Trump that prevented federal agencies from imparting diversity training to their employees. However, he has not yet done anything to alleviate the staggering racial and gender disparity in the ongoing unemployment crisis. A recent CNN article points out that in December alone, women lost about 156,000 jobs while men gained 16,000. Important to note here is that Latina and Black women have the highest unemployment rates among all women. Moreover, the federal employment statistics do not include intersex and nonbinary people, which conflicts with Biden’s objective of supporting the LGBTQIA+ community. Whether he will reform this through his new “Data Working Group” is not clear yet.

While Biden’s racial equity order isn’t the kind of radical reform demanded by social reform groups, it still says a lot about the new administration’s approach to race.  Joe Biden’s strong language condemning the Capitol Hill insurrection during the signing of the order gives out a serious anti-racist message. Keeping that in mind, we also need to recognize that actions speak louder than words and for the time being, we will have to see how Biden plans to implement racial equality in the U.S. indefinitely. 

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