Before he won the 2020 election, President Joe Biden campaigned on a promise to reverse many of the previous administration’s assaults on the nation’s racial progress.
The president ran on the premise of “reclaiming the soul of America” and ensuring that African Americans — “They’ve always had my back,” he declared — and other minorities would finally experience a level playing field.
On his first day, just hours after taking the oath of office, President Biden signed a host of executive orders – one of them aimed at ensuring racial equity.
“It is, therefore, the policy of my administration that the federal government should 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 proclaimed.
“Affirmatively advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice, and equal opportunity is the responsibility of the whole of our government. Because advancing equity requires a systematic approach to embedding fairness in decision-making processes, executive departments and agencies must recognize and work to redress inequities in their policies and programs that serve as barriers to equal opportunity.”
By advancing equity across the federal government, the president asserts, agencies can create opportunities to improve historically underserved communities, which he said benefits everyone.
“For example, an analysis shows that closing racial gaps in wages, housing credit, lending opportunities, and access to higher education would amount to an additional $5 trillion in gross domestic product in the American economy over the next five years,” Biden spelled out.
“The federal government’s goal in advancing equity is to provide everyone with the opportunity to reach their full potential,” he remarked. “Consistent with these aims, each agency must assess whether, and to what extent, its programs and policies perpetuate systemic barriers to opportunities and benefits for people of color and other underserved groups. Such assessments will better equip agencies to develop policies and programs that deliver resources and benefits equitably to all.”
The president’s words and early actions have offered a glimpse into what communities of color can expect over much of the next four years — at least that is the hope.
“As a black man living in America, the inauguration brings a sense of hope that has not been felt since January 2009,” uttered Christian Bradford, a Northern California educator.
“Just look at the parallels, the country was experiencing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and we were about to experience a person in a position of leadership that we had never seen,” Bradford related.
“Seeing a Black woman, who’s an HBCU graduate, member of a Divine nine sorority, and who has steadily ascended the political ladder is inspiring in so many ways,” he continued.
“The emotions are very similar to when Barack Obama was elected. Generations of children had never experienced a president that looked like them. Conversely, many children who did not look like President Obama had never seen a Black man in a position of authority, and now the most powerful leader in the world was a Black man.
“So, I think it’s equally important for people of all races in this country to see that leaders come from all races, ethnic groups, familial backgrounds, and so many other unique positionalities.”
Tanya St. Julien, the chief of staff at Leadership for Educational Equity and a member of her Community Education Council in Brooklyn, N.Y., said the new administration brings hope for all Americans who believe in the promise of true democracy – one in which all people have the opportunity to live into their full potential.
“For people of color, this administration brings representation,” St. Julien offered. “With great pride, people of color across the country are looking at folks who share their racial and cultural identity assuming political leadership and influencing policy at the highest level.”
According to St. Julien, the new administration also brings opportunity.
“President Joe Biden named and thanked Black women in his acceptance speech, and that, along with the diversity of his administration, makes us hopeful that he will support and promote the policy priorities of the people who have been hardest hit by systemic inequity,” she said.
St. Julien added that she is hopeful for economic restoration and commensurate investments in supporting Black businesses, creating jobs for people of color, and investing in our communities’ economic development.
She noted that Vice President Kamala Harris offers a chance to address and uproot the legacy of white supremacy in America, so people of color could live up to their potential instead of facing systemic challenges like educational inequity, murder at the hands of police, substandard healthcare, and food insecurity.
St. Julien stated that emotions might be different for the Biden-Harris administration than when Obama first won election in 2008.
“Obama’s election was all about hope, and it was an overwhelming victory. This election is different,” St. Julien observed.
“Decided by a handful of states and undermined by the sitting president, we are experiencing the meeting of two Americas. We are cautiously optimistic and remain ready to fight against systemic inequity so that America can finally start to fulfill its promise of equality and justice for all.”