A quartet of executive orders signed by President Joe Biden to promote racial equity in the U.S. were welcomed Tuesday, Jan. 26, by Southern California activists, academics and community leaders who see the orders as first steps toward Biden keeping a promise he made at the height of last summer’s protests over racial justice.
The new orders, signed on the seventh day of Biden’s presidency, direct the Department of Housing and Urban development to fight housing discrimination; denounce xenophobia and racism directed at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders especially in the context of the coronavirus pandemic; reaffirm the federal government’s respect for tribal sovereignty; and end the Department of Justice’s use of private prisons.
Holding up racial equity as an ideal in any nation is the way “to help ensure that everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, has an equal shot at living a life that is successful, meaningful and healthy,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, director of the UC Riverside’s Center for Social Innovation.
“It’s tempting for people to say we need to stop thinking about race, and problems with race will go away,” he added. “Countries like France have tried this approach, but it doesn’t work. They’ve discovered that race is experienced in society regardless of whether you have labels or not. We are better off being conscious about race than being blind to it. Because ignoring it means we’re OK with the stark inequalities that have built up over time.”