US President Joe Biden signed four executive actions Tuesday aimed at addressing systemic racism and enhancing racial equity.
Building on last Wednesday’s executive order, which introduced his administration’s plans to pursue racial equity, Biden first disavowed discrimination against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community over the coronavirus pandemic. “The Federal Government has a responsibility to prevent racism, xenophobia, and intolerance against everyone in America, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders,” the order states. According to a UN report released in October, hate crimes against Asian Americans in the US have reached an “alarming” level. The report cites more than 1,800 racist incidents against Asian Americans from March to May 2020.
In his next order, Biden recommitted the federal government to respecting tribal sovereignty. Emphasizing the importance of supporting Native American leaders and their self-governance, Biden directed the US to honor the commitments they have failed to honor for the past two centuries. He noted that these commitments are “particularly vital now, as our Nation faces crises related to health, the economy, racial justice, and climate change—all of which disproportionately harm Native Americans.”
Additionally, in an effort to reduce incarceration levels, Biden directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to discontinue the use of private prisons. The order states that “[p]rivately operated criminal detention facilities consistently underperform Federal facilities with respect to correctional services, programs, and resources. Incarcerated individuals should be given a fair chance to fully reintegrate into their communities.” However, the White House said that the order to not renew private prison contracts only applies to the DOJ and not to the Department of Homeland Security, which has contracts with privately operated immigration detention centers.
Biden’s final executive action 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,” including removing systematically implemented racially discriminatory housing policies from the 20th century.