And Biden took steps to reverse what he called “the previous administration’s harmful ban on diversity and sensitivity training” and President Trump’s controversial “1776 Commission.”
The president said that his actions advancing racial equity were a direct response to the protests triggered by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died after being pinned to the ground by police in Minnesota, with a knee to his neck. Biden, at an executive order signing ceremony at the White House, emphasized that Floyd’s death “opened the eyes of millions of Americans.”
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on racial equity, in the State Dining Room of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
“It was the knee on the neck of justice and it wouldn’t be forgotten,” Biden added. “It marked a turning point in this country’s attitude toward racial justice.”
Floyd’s death quickly pushed longstanding concerns over police brutality against minorities and the broader issue of the country’s history of systemic racism firmly back into the national spotlight.
Biden signed four executive actions, including one which he said would root out systemic racism in housing and criminal justice. He directed the Department of Housing and Urban Development, known by its acronym HUD, “to redress historical racism in federal housing policies.”
The president also ordered the Department of Justice to phase out the use of private prisons, which he said “is the first step to stop corporations from profiting off of incarceration that is less humane and less safe as the studies show.”
The president also directed “federal agencies to combat the resurgence of xenophobia, particularly against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders that we’ve seen skyrocket during this pandemic.” Biden said, “This is unacceptable and un-American.” And Biden said he would recommit the federal government to respect Tribal sovereignty and strengthen the relationship with Native American tribal nations.
The president also abolished what he called “the offense, counterfactual 1776 Commission.”
Biden stressed that “unity and healing must begin with understanding and truth, not ignorance and lies.”
The commission, first announced by President Trump in September, was designed to teach U.S. history from a patriotic perspective. It aimed to push back on the idea that the country is “irredeemably and systemically racist” and present an alternative to The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which had been adopted as an educational tool in some schools, as well as other critical accounts of the early days of the nation.
Earlier this month, Biden’s presidential transition team said that the commission had “sought to erase America’s history of racial injustice.”
Biden, in announcing his executive orders on racial equity, said that “I firmly believe the nation is ready to change, but government has to change as well. We need to make equity and justice part of what we do every day. Today, tomorrow, and every day.”
While he cautioned that “I’m not promising we can end it tomorrow,” the president said that “I promise you we can continue to make progress to eliminate systemic racism and every branch of the White House and the federal government is going to be part of that effort.”
Fox News’ Audrey Conklin contributed to this report