Two years after signing an executive order on his first day in office addressing systemic racism, President Joe Biden has released a sequel: an executive order aimed at combating racism through federal agencies.
The title is clunky—"Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government"—but the order sets some pretty direct goals. According to The Hill, federal agencies will be required to meet several requirements, starting with having an annual, public Equity Action Plan to help underserved communities get better access to policies and programs. Leaders have to be assigned to comply with this mandate, but let's hope agencies don't pass the buck by assigning their least-busy, most-checked out agency lifers to set up the plans to fail.
The executive order also calls for federal agencies to investigate and address algorithmic discrimination in their tech, including improving accessibility for the disabled and improving language access. This seems pretty timely given that if agencies start jumping on AI technologies, they're going to be dealing with lots of bias and systemic discrimination issues.
Agencies will be called on to Improve community engagement, including holding meetings in communities and for faith-based groups working in communities to give them information on funding opportunities. No word on how this will work, exactly, but it's hard to argue against more community outreach from agencies that might otherwise be out of touch with those they're trying to help.
Lastly, agencies will be called on to work with rural communities and minority owned small businesses to help them access federal resources. About 20 percent of businesses in the U.S. are minority owned.
The White House said in a statement that the first executive order created some progress, but, "the reality is that underserved communities—many of whom have endured generations of discrimination and disinvestment—still confront unacceptable barriers to equal opportunity and the American Dream."
The Hill quoted NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johson, who Tweeted in part, "This is a big deal."
The Hill as recently as last month was examining how much Biden has done on racial justice. Even with this new order, the administration still has a lot of work to do in areas like hate crimes and criminal justice reform.
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