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Ordering Equal Access: Biden acts to advance racial, social justice on day one

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden reiterated his commitment to racial justice and to overturning systemic racism and the long-standing inequities in our society.

One of his first acts after taking the oath of office was to sign an executive order outlining his “ambitious whole-of-government equity agenda” to advance racial and social justice for all – including historically underserved communities, such as people of color, individuals with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people and those living in poverty. The order rightly recognized diversity as “one of our country’s greatest strengths.”

The order makes clear that advancing equity for all will be a policy priority across the federal government. It tasked the White House Domestic Policy Council with coordinating the effort to “remove systemic barriers to and provide equal access to opportunities and benefits.” In addition, it dissolved Trump’s “1776 Commission” effort to politicize education and Trump’s order banning diversity training on racial and gender biases.  

The SPLC welcomes Biden’s focus and priority on this work, as demonstrated by his reversal of hundreds of discriminatory Trump-era civil rights rollbacks and attacks. The president’s racial justice and equity executive order outlines a bold vision to reimagine how our nation can be more fair, just and equitable for all. We are ready to support his efforts and we will urge his administration to keep this work moving forward.

We also deeply appreciate another executive order designed to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, and to fully enforce Title VII and other laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of these personal characteristics.  

These initial executive actions offer hope – particularly to Black, Indigenous, people of color, LGBTQ+ and other communities – that the new administration will undertake extensive and serious efforts to combat all forms of discrimination.

But these actions must be accompanied by urgent congressional legislation to fund programs that complement the president’s vision and promote more fair, just and equitable communities, schools and workplaces. The SPLC is eager to work with both the Biden administration and Congress to make this vision a reality.  

Photo by Patrick Semansky/AP Photo/Bloomberg via Getty Images