Biden officials uncover racism across government, plan ways to promote “fairness”

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Just hours after being sworn in on January 20, President Biden ordered all federal agencies to examine whether their policies discriminate against minorities and to submit a report within 200 days describing the “structural racism” they found. .

Nine months later – more than two months after Mr Biden’s deadline – the White House won’t say how many reports it received or what was in the reports it received.

But a Washington Times survey of a dozen departments and agencies revealed widespread concerns that the government is praising people of color, including in agricultural aid, visits to national parks and payment of unemployment benefits.

The president’s order also gave agencies until Jan. 20 to recommend ways to eliminate the disparities.

Mr. Biden’s focus on complaints about systemic racism has already sparked some change. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, has ordered its agents to stop labeling illegal immigrants as “foreigners” and instead call them “non-citizens” to “ensure that individuals are treated humanely.” depending on the department.

The US Department of Agriculture and other agencies have created commissions to examine how to incorporate racial equity into the way they do business.

The Home Office last week hosted the first in a series of “listening sessions” on racial equity, and has been urged by activists to examine why only a quarter of people escape the ” deprivation of nature ”by going to national parks are minorities, despite minorities. groups representing 40% of the population.

The Labor Department said it wanted to understand why blacks who were unemployed during the pandemic were less likely than whites to get unemployment benefits.

Mr Biden’s vow to promote racial fairness in all aspects of government has raised alarm bells from critics who have warned that directing billions of taxpayer dollars to minorities would potentially discriminate against whites.

“There’s just going to be an avalanche of racial and ethnic preference programs to achieve equity of outcome,” said Devon Westhill, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative think tank. “Obviously, part of this is going to be illegal. “

Mr Westhill noted that Mr Biden asked agencies in June to figure out how to ensure small minority-owned businesses get more than billions of dollars a year in federal contracts. Mr Biden said that instead of getting 10% of government dollars, he wanted companies to receive half of it in a few years, directing an additional $ 100 billion to minorities.

Several agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Education, declined to discuss with The Times what they were considering under Mr Biden’s order.

Environmental and education officials have previously announced some of their efforts on the equity front.

The EPA has launched a “Lecture Series on Environmental Justice and Systemic Racism” with a total of four speakers to date. The latest presentation took place on March 4 and highlighted the EPA’s “Inequality Mapping Project,” which includes publicly accessible digital versions of its red maps for around 200 cities.

The EPA has no further sessions in the series scheduled at this time.

The Education Department announced this year that it will use historic levels of school funding in the COVID-19 aid program as “drivers of equity and opportunity.” This included telling poor school districts how to prevent funding levels from being reduced from pre-pandemic levels.

The ministry also organized an “Equity Summit Series” for school officials to discuss strategies to benefit minorities. The first summit, held in June, explored “how schools and communities can reinvent our school systems so that every student has a voice in their school and classroom, especially students in underserved communities, including communities of color, students with disabilities and multilingual learners. “

Some attempts at fairness have already encountered problems of discrimination.

Mr Biden’s US bailout tried to cancel $ 4 billion in federal farm loans for “socially disadvantaged” farmers, which was an effort to compensate the Department of Agriculture for allegedly denying subsidies to farmers black for years. A federal court blocked the program because it discriminated against white farmers.

The Agriculture Department then announced a new program to provide $ 16 billion in grants to community groups and colleges that help veterans and people from “socially disadvantaged” groups who operate farms.

“Equal opportunity is the foundation of American democracy, and our diversity is one of our country’s greatest strengths. But for too many people, the American dream remains elusive, ”Biden said in his inauguration day executive order. “It is therefore the policy of my administration that the federal government take a comprehensive approach to advance equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized and affected by poverty and persistent inequalities. “

The few agencies that are ready to discuss their racial equity efforts have pointed to policy changes on the part of the Trump administration.

The US Department of Agriculture, for example, prioritizes socially disadvantaged farmers in distributing COVID-19 stimulus payments. Only 4% of aid to farms and other agricultural interests went to minorities during the Trump administration. Since April, 21% of aid has gone to socially disadvantaged farmers, according to the USDA.

The ministry said it had not changed the eligibility requirements for the program, but rather raised awareness among minority farmers.

Mr Biden’s focus on “systemic racism” has also extended to public health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky said in April that racism is a public health problem.

Noting that minorities have contracted the coronavirus disproportionately, the CDC has given $ 2.25 billion to state, county and municipal health agencies to improve testing and contact tracing in minority communities. In April, the CDC gave local governments $ 3 billion to boost immunizations, with three-quarters of the money needed going to minority communities.

The immunization gap between whites and people of color has narrowed, said Samantha Artiga, vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation and director of racial equity and health policy.

In April, 38% of whites were vaccinated compared to 24% of blacks, a difference of 14 percentage points. By October, the racial gap had fallen to 8 percentage points, from 54% to 46%, according to a recent report by Kaiser.

The Education Department, which declined to participate in this report, drew criticism earlier this year when it cited critical race theory as an example of what should be taught in US history. United. The department backtracked, saying it didn’t want to demand education that America remains racist for federal funding.

Mr Biden issued another executive order on Tuesday ordering the Department of Education to initiate a review of racial disparities in education. The order also created a special advisory commission on the matter.

“They’re going to come up with a lot of schemes,” Westhill said.

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