Miami Herald (Sunday)

Bi­den starts pres­i­dency with em­pha­sis on eq­uity

- BY JIM TANKER­S­LEY AND MICHAEL D. SHEAR New York Times Racism · U.S. News · US Politics · Society · Discrimination · Politics · Elections · Justice · Unemployment · Human Rights · Law · Employment · Joe Biden · Washington · Lyndon B. Johnson · Cecilia · Council of Economic Advisers · United States Senate · White House · Barack Obama · Columbia University · Rand Paul · Kentucky · Republican Party (United States) · Susan Rice · Donald Trump · United States of America


In his first days in of­fice, Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den has de­voted more at­ten­tion to is­sues of racial eq­uity than any new pres­i­dent since Lyn­don B. John­son, a fo­cus that has cheered civil rights ac­tivists and drawn early crit­i­cism from con­ser­va­tives.

In his in­au­gu­ra­tion speech, the pres­i­dent pledged to de­feat “white supremacy,” us­ing a burst of ex­ec­u­tive or­ders on day one to de­clare that “ad­vanc­ing eq­uity, civil rights, racial jus­tice and equal op­por­tu­nity is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the whole of our govern­ment.”

He has or­dered his coro­n­avirus re­sponse team to en­sure that vac­cines are dis­trib­uted eq­ui­tably. His $1.9 tril­lion re­cov­ery plan tar­gets un­der­served com­mu­ni­ties by call­ing for paid leave for women forced out of jobs, un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits that largely help Black and brown work­ers, and ex­panded tax cred­its for im­pov­er­ished Amer­i­cans who are dis­pro­por­tion­ately non­white.

And the new ad­min­is­tra­tion is pre­par­ing to take sweep­ing steps in the months ahead to di­rectly ad­dress in­equity in hous­ing, crim­i­nal jus­tice, vot­ing rights, health care, ed­u­ca­tion and eco­nomic mo­bil­ity.

“Racial eq­uity is not a silo in and of it­self,” said Ce­cilia Rouse, Bi­den’s nom­i­nee to lead his Coun­cil of Eco­nomic Ad­vis­ers, who would be the first

Black econ­o­mist to over­see the coun­cil if con­firmed by the Se­nate. “It is wo­ven in all of these pol­icy ef­forts.”

The ac­tions re­flect the po­lit­i­cal coali­tion back­ing Bi­den, who was lifted by Black vot­ers to his party’s nom­i­na­tion and who won the White House in part on the strength of Black turnout and sup­port from women in the sub­urbs and else­where. They also re­flect what his­to­ri­ans see as a unique open­ing for Bi­den to di­rectly ad­dress is­sues of in­equal­ity – in con­trast to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, un­der whom Bi­den served as vice pres­i­dent.

Obama, the na­tion’s first

Black pres­i­dent, took pains to be seen as a pres­i­dent for “all Amer­i­cans,” as op­posed to Black Amer­i­cans, said Ni­cole Hem­mer, a Columbia Univer­sity his­to­rian and as­so­ci­ate re­search scholar with the Obama Pres­i­dency Oral His­tory pro­ject.

“You got less of that overt racial eq­uity lan­guage from Barack Obama than you get from Joe Bi­den,” Hem­mer said. “The chal­lenge to Bi­den is how he makes clear the univer­sal ben­e­fits of fo­cus­ing on racial and gen­der eq­uity. He is go­ing to face real push­back on this.”

The back­lash has al­ready be­gun. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told Fox News that Bi­den’s in­au­gu­ral ad­dress had at­tacked Repub­li­cans with “thinly veiled in­nu­endo, call­ing us white su­prem­a­cists, call­ing us racists.” Colum­nist An­drew Sul­li­van, who writes a Sub­stack news­let­ter, ac­cused the pres­i­dent of “cul­ture war ag­gres­sion” in a re­cent post, say­ing Bi­den’s fo­cus on “eq­uity” would give “named iden­tity groups a spe­cific ad­van­tage in treat­ment by the fed­eral govern­ment over other groups.”

“You don’t get to unite the coun­try by di­vid­ing it along these deep and in­flam­ma­tory is­sues of iden­tity,” Sul­li­van wrote.

Obama’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Su­san Rice, who is lead­ing Bi­den’s Do­mes­tic Pol­icy Coun­cil, is charged with en­sur­ing that the new ad­min­is­tra­tion em­beds is­sues of racial eq­uity into ev­ery­thing it does. In an in­ter­view, she re­jected the idea that do­ing so is a “zero-sum game” that ben­e­fited some groups of Amer­i­cans at the ex­pense of oth­ers.

“Look at the COVID cri­sis, which dis­pro­por­tion­ately sick­ened and killed Black and brown peo­ple who are the front-line work­ers, the es­sen­tial work­ers,” she said. “We are all poorer when those among us who are most vul­ner­a­ble, most dis­ad­van­taged, are suf­fer­ing.”

Rice, who is Black, has lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence in do­mes­tic pol­icy, but has re­cruited a team with deep roots in civil rights and jus­tice. She said Bi­den per­suaded her to re­turn to the White House with the prom­ise that eq­uity is­sues would not be “an iso­lated bub­ble,” but rather a cen­tral mis­sion of his ad­min­is­tra­tion, one fo­cused on rolling back the le­gacy of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who she said “de­lib­er­ately sought to di­vide and de­grade huge seg­ments of our pop­u­la­tion.”

One of the fullest ex­pres­sions of Trump’s views came in Septem­ber when he or­dered the govern­ment to stop us­ing di­ver­sity train­ing pro­grams, say­ing they were pro­mot­ing a “ma­lign ide­ol­ogy” that mis­rep­re­sented the coun­try’s his­tory.

“This ide­ol­ogy is rooted in the per­ni­cious and false be­lief that Amer­ica is an ir­re­deemably racist and sex­ist coun­try; that some peo­ple, sim­ply on ac­count of their race or sex, are op­pres­sors; and that racial and sex­ual iden­ti­ties are more im­por­tant than our com­mon sta­tus as hu­man be­ings and Amer­i­cans,” Trump wrote in his ex­ec­u­tive or­der.

Bi­den re­voked the or­der­his first day. He also dis­banded a pres­i­den­tial com­mis­sion Trump as­sem­bled that last week pro­duced a re­port, widely de­nounced by his­to­ri­ans, that in­cluded a re­fram­ing of the United States’ his­tory of slav­ery in terms more fa­vor­able to white slave­hold­ers.

Bi­den made racial and gen­der eq­uity prom­ises a cen­tral theme of his cam­paign. He nom­i­nated a Cab­i­net that has more women and peo­ple of color than any pres­i­dent be­fore him, though he drew crit­i­cism from the Con­gres­sional Asian Pacific Amer­i­can Cau­cus for not ap­point­ing any Asian Amer­i­can or Pacific-Is­lan­der sec­re­taries.

 ?? EVAN VUCCI AP ?? Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den signs a se­ries of ex­ec­u­tive or­ders Wed­nes­day in the Oval Of­fice.
EVAN VUCCI AP Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den signs a se­ries of ex­ec­u­tive or­ders Wed­nes­day in the Oval Of­fice.
 ?? LAU­RENT CIPRI­ANI AP ?? A woman walks down the street Jan. 16 at the start of the new cur­few to counter COVID-19 in Lyon, France.
LAU­RENT CIPRI­ANI AP A woman walks down the street Jan. 16 at the start of the new cur­few to counter COVID-19 in Lyon, France.

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