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Foreign Policy Spring 2021. As soon as they were inaugurated, U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris started making good on their campaign promises. They reentered the Paris climate accord, renewed U.S. support for the World Health Organization, and ended the Trump administration’s travel bans targeting nationals of select Muslim-majority and African nations. Racial justice was also high on the list of issues that they identified as most pressing and requiring action in their first 100 days.

On Jan. 26, Biden rolled out his administration’s first steps to advance racial equity and promote national unity and reconciliation. He issued
four executive orders spanning issues that affect multiple racial and ethnic minority groups in the United States, namely Black, Latino, Indigenous, Asian, and Pacific Islander Americans. The first executive order directed the Department of Housing and Urban Development to remedy racism in federal housing policy and practice, while the second instructed the Justice Department to end contracts with private prisons. The third renewed the federal government’s “commitment to tribal sovereignty and consultation,” and the fourth ordered the Justice Department to combat anti-Asian racism and xenophobia. Foreign Policy Spring 2021

Beyond the four orders, Biden and Harris have called for a whole-of-government approach to redressing structural racism and systemic inequality. Biden opened his remarks on signing the orders by acknowledging racial disparities in health and the economy, noting disproportionate rates of coronavirus infections and deaths, food insecurity, and job losses among Americans of color. He invoked the memory of George Floyd, who was killed by Minneapolis police in May 2020 and whose death, Biden affirmed, marked a turning point for
the United States. The president urged, “Now is the time to act … because that’s what faith and morality call us to do.” Foreign Policy Spring 2021. The first executive order directed the Department of Housing and Urban Development to remedy racism in federal housing policy and practice, while the second instructed the Justice Department to end contracts with private prisons. The third renewed the federal government’s “commitment to tribal sovereignty and consultation,” and the fourth ordered the Justice Department to combat anti-Asian racism and xenophobia.


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