After a week in the White House, the 46th President of the United States of America can be credited with a watershed initiative to ensure what he calls “racial equity”.
President Joe Biden has signed four executive actions on the issue that has of late ignited ugly incidents at St Bernadino and Ferguson, to name just two storm centres. By any reckoning, not the least by his immediate predecessor, Donald Trump, Tuesday’s development is indubitably a big and early step in his efforts to dismantle systemic racism.
Civil rights groups have, however, made it clear they will press for more sweeping changes in the months ahead. America’s black, indigenous and Asian-American populations must keep their fingers crossed. Chiefly, Tuesday’s signal initiative seeks to strengthen anti-discrimination housing policies that were weakened under President Trump, halt new Justice Department contracts with private prisons, increase the sovereignty of Native American tribes and combat violence and xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific islanders.
The initiative has been announced weeks after the exit of a President who, to obfuscate a bumbling approach, had once blamed the Chinese alone for the coronavirus pandemic. It is a measure of President Biden’s commitment to address America’s ugly truth of racism that the initiative is part of an effort to infuse the focus on equity into everything the federal government does.
“We’re in a battle for the soul of this nation, and the truth is our soul will be troubled as long as systemic racism is allowed to exist,” he said.
“I’m not promising that we can end it tomorrow, but I promise you that we’re going to make strides to end systemic racism, and every branch of the White House and the federal government will be part of that.”
The fact of the matter must be that racism is embedded in the colour of one’s skin. The gross injustice of man towards man has been exacerbated over the past four years, exemplified most recently with the killing of a black by a white policeman who had pressed his boot on the neck of his victim until he died. A more brutal instance of racist killing will be hard to find.
The actions do reflect the extent to which Mr Biden’s ascent to the presidency was wrapped up with the nation’s racial struggles. It bears recall that he began his campaign with a rejection of Trump’s approach to race.
The incumbent was propelled to the nomination largely by black voters and had aligned his campaign increasingly with their cause as protests against racial injustice erupted across the country.
Mr Biden faces an unusually turbulent landscape early in his presidency, and he often frames the country’s racial reckoning as one of several crises facing America, not to forget the coronavirus pandemic, the economic collapse and climate change. Activists are now shrilling for more from President Biden than a diverse administration and rhetoric about justice.