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Biden Signs Executive Orders on Racial Equity and Ending Private Prison Contracts

01-27-2021
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Image Source: (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool Photo via AP)

President Biden signed four executive actions Tuesday aimed at fighting racial discrimination. This includes redressing racially discriminatory federal housing policies and directing the Justice Department to stop the use of private prisons.

Biden said the measures seek to add equality into all the actions made by the federal government.

"We're in a battle for the soul of this nation, and the truth is our soul will be troubled as long as systemic racism is allowed to exist," he said. "I'm not promising that we can end it tomorrow, but I promise you that we're going to make strides to end systemic racism, and every branch of the White House and the federal government will be part of that."

Additionally, he signed a memorandum directing federal agencies, including the departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Justice, to take action against racism and violence towards Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.   

Some activists are warning that confronting systemic racism is complicated and will not be overcome by issuing executive orders, The Washington Post reports.

Activist Melanie Campbell, who leads the Black Women's Roundtable, said, "Black people didn't just help the Biden-Harris ticket win for our health. I'm not waiting on announcements, I'm engaging. Maybe we'll give them a week or two to settle in, but we are not sitting around waiting."

Biden said Tuesday that the nation must modify how it handles racial equity. "It's time to act because that's what faith and morality call us to do," he said. "It's what the core values of this nation call us to do."

Lisa Rice, president and chief executive of the National Fair Housing Alliance, said civil rights groups have a timeframe for the new measures and expect the Biden administration to "make the executive orders come to fruition."

"You can tell me all day long you want to advance racial equality, but if I don't see you doing substantive things like encouraging lending institutions to develop special-purpose credit programs, then I begin to wonder if this wasn't just all talk," Rice said. "Changing the policies is one thing. Now you've got to implement them."

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