By Noelani Kirschner

President Biden signed four executive orders on January 26 to support America’s racial equity goals.

“We need to open the promise of America to every American,” President Biden said at the signing ceremony. “And that means we need to make the issue of racial equity not just an issue for any one department of government; it has to be the business of the whole of government.”

The first executive order acknowledged previous housing policies that most negatively affected Black Americans.

Over the course of the 20th century, the federal government systematically supported discrimination and exclusion in housing and mortgage lending, the memorandum says. The federal government’s housing policies and programs purposefully excluded Black people and other people of color, promoting and reinforcing housing segregation.

“And the simple truth is, our soul will be troubled as long as systemic racism is allowed to persist,” Biden said.

To fight systemic racism and mass incarceration in the United States, Biden also signed a second executive order that directed the Department of Justice to end its relationship with private prisons.

There are nearly 152,000 inmates incarcerated in federal prisons in the United States, according to the Associated Press. Of this group, 14,000 federal inmates are in private prisons.

Incarceration rates in the United States are higher among Black Americans, specifically Black men. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2018, Black Americans constituted 33% of the sentenced prison population in the United States, which is nearly triple their 12% representation in the adult population. In concrete numbers, this means 465,200 Black inmates in state and federal prisons.

“To decrease incarceration levels, we must reduce profit-based incentives to incarcerate by phasing out the federal government’s reliance on privately operated criminal detention facilities,” Biden said in the executive order.

The other two executive orders signed promise increased Native American tribal consultation and an intolerance for racism, xenophobia and intolerance against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.

“I promise you: We’re going to 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,” Biden concluded in his remarks.

Banner image: Vice President Harris looks on as President Biden signs executive orders at the White House on January 26 in Washington. (© Doug Mills/The New York Times/Getty Images)