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Biden’s planned actions on racial equity, explained

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The president intends to overturn Trump’s 1776 Commission and study how federal agencies contribute to inequality.
Before taking office, President Joe Biden promised that racial justice would be one of the four “compounding crises” he’d tackle in his first days on the job. And on January 26, Biden will take action on a number of measures designed to bolster fairness and justice, including repealing the Trump administration’s 1776 Commission, which sought to downplay the role of slavery in American history, among other revisionist efforts, and examining how federal agencies promote and foster inequality along racial lines. Biden’s equity platform states that while equal opportunity is America’s foundation, systemic racism — laws, policies, and institutions — prevents many Americans from reaching this ideal. This very fact is illustrated by the coronavirus pandemic, which has decimated Black and Indigenous communities by taking their lives at a disproportionate rate and leaving many in those communities unemployed or at greater risk of infection due to their positions as essential workers. According to the order for advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities, Biden wants 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.” Biden’s early attention to equity comes at a time when social justice advocates are calling on elected officials to directly address systemic racism as it manifests in policing, education, health, housing, the environment, and the economy through policy — not simply conduct reviews and offer thoughts on the need for unity. In 2020, millions of Americans protested the police killings of Black Americans like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. While Biden’s executive order suggests that equity is top of mind, activists say they’re aware that they’ll need to put pressure on the administration to set the agenda and bring continued urgency. “No set of executive orders is going to revoke structural oppression,” Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party and an organizer with the Movement for Black Lives and the Frontline, told Vox. “Historically, whenever this country made major gains around racial justice and equity, it was because social movements led the government. Significant movement around racial justice and equity has never come from the White House. As we don’t anticipate that to happen this time, our social movement has a critical role to play in all of this.” Biden will revoke Trump’s ban on anti-bias training and reject Trump’s mission to downplay the roles of slavery and race in American history Biden will emphasize his commitment to equity by rolling back two signature orders that the Trump administration implemented last fall that rejected the role of systemic racism in America. The first of those orders, “Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping,” barred federal agencies from conducting workplace training that “inculcates in its employees any form of race or sex stereotyping or any form of race or sex scapegoating.” The order boiled down to a ban on any diversity training that informed employees about racism or helped them become aware of their implicit biases. Trump’s order also rejected critical race theory, the foundation of these trainings that moved scholars and activists to recognize how racism is endemic to American life.

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