Leading Civil Rights Groups Call on President Biden to Create White House Racial Equity and Inclusion Office
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WASHINGTON, DC—In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, historic racial justice protests, and unprecedented commitment by the executive office to confront systemic racism, the Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative—the foremost diverse coalition of national racial justice and civil rights organizations representing and serving more than 53 million people in the U.S.—is pushing for racial equity to be at the forefront of government operations, policies and practices. The coalition calls on President Joe Biden to establish a White House Office on Racial Equity and Inclusion to coordinate the full range of federal agency efforts to advance racial equity, centered on the administration’s promise to confront systemic racism and heal the “soul of our nation.”
America’s deep and long-standing racial inequities were on full display in 2020, from profoundly disparate health and economic outcomes that surfaced in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to a national reckoning with racism in the criminal justice system, including the extrajudicial police killings of Americans of color. The power of Black and brown voters was also laid bare, as strategic mobilization of historically underrepresented communities led to unprecedented voter turnout in the 2020 election. Generations of systemic racism have shaped conditions for Black, Latino, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, American Indian and Alaska Native communities. The U.S. government played a significant role in shaping these conditions and must prioritize racial equity in order to meaningfully improve them.
Vice President Kamala Harris has made history as the first Black and Asian American woman elected to the position, and President Biden has pledged to appoint “the most diverse cabinet in history.” Furthermore, the Biden-Harris Build Back Better plan designates racial equity as a “distinct pillar” of its approach to building a stronger future for all Americans, and after meeting with the collaborative prior to the inauguration, included in its day one actions an executive order to advance racial equity and support for underserved communities. The coalition embraces this progress while recognizing that sustained commitment and institutional infrastructure will be required to overcome historical injustices at scale.
Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum: “In 2020, the world experienced an historical chapter of reckoning with how systemic racism permeates throughout civil society. We call on the Biden-Harris administration to lead the country with a whole of government approach with the charge of dismantling institutionalized racism, tackling the deep rooted inequities that exist for communities of color, while also uplifting and celebrating the resilience and brilliance of the diversity our communities represent. As our country continues to grapple with the harrowing dimensions of this global pandemic, we must ensure equitable access and allocation of resources, including vaccines, for the hardest hit communities is not just an aspiration but a goal realized,” said Juliet K. Choi, CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum.
Advancement Project, National Office: “It is clear that our nation needs moral strong leadership invested in dismantling institutional racism. Building an infrastructure dedicated to advancing racial equity will ensure inequalities in health care, employment, policing and education are addressed. We urge the new administration to build a team dedicated to developing a new culture of inclusion that advances racial equity goals,” said Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of Advancement Project National Office.
Demos: “From the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor to the clear racial disparities in the impact of COVID-19, so much of what we’ve seen in the last year reflects long-standing, government-sanctioned systemic racism in America,” said Nahal Zamani, director of movement building for Demos. “After generations of taking deliberate action to discriminate against Black and brown people throughout the history of this country, the United States government must take equally deliberate action to right its wrongs. The new administration has a historic opportunity to bring the full weight of the executive branch to the task of promoting racial equity. By establishing a White House office singularly dedicated to racial equity and inclusion and tasked with coordinating creative inter-agency efforts at advancing racial equity, the Biden-Harris administration can take a groundbreaking step toward creating an America that lives up to its promise.”
Faith In Action: “With a new administration taking office and what is hopefully the end of the pandemic on the horizon, we have an opportunity in 2021 to respond to the great moral challenge of our country: the systemic racism that has plagued the United States for generations. Restoring the soul of our nation, as the president-elect has set out to do, requires a commitment to ensuring no one stands alone and that no one is left behind. The pursuit of justice and equity must rise above all other concerns because it is the concern that ties all else together. A White House office dedicated to racial equity and inclusion will focus that pursuit and enable us to mobilize our considerable energies across all avenues – social, economic, legal and political – to create a justice-oriented framework for governing and creating a country that is inclusive and celebrates the diversity of all its residents,” said the Rev. Alvin Herring, executive director of Faith in Action.
In December, the Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative outlined the role of a White House Office on Racial Equity and Inclusion in a memo to President-elect Biden’s transition team:
- Develop a racial equity vision in collaboration with civil society for the Administration.
- Develop shared language, analysis and tools; and build knowledge, skills, and capacity across the federal government and among federal employees to advance racial equity.
- Assist and support agencies in assessing readiness to advance racial equity work, and setting measurable, results-based equity goals.
- In collaboration with the Office of Management and Budget and Domestic Policy Council, conduct racial equity assessments on policy measures.
- Ensure and support robust development, collection and use of racially disaggregated data across federal government to advance racial equity.
- Foster effective partnerships across agencies and between federal agencies and civil society toward racial equity goals.
National Urban League: “Even before 2020 exposed our pandemic of triple deadly disease and economic hardship and racial unrest, America was a nation that still had only begun to grapple with the legacy of white supremacy. Establishing a White House Office on Racial Equity and Inclusion is our best hope of nurturing that awakening and achieving our true potential,” said Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League.
Race Forward: “We stand at the crossroads of our country’s reckoning of race. We stand at this crossroads because of the vision and work of Black organizers and activists, alongside other organizers and activists of color, who have pushed this country closer to its professed ideals of justice, equality, and freedom for all. The Biden-Harris administration must walk alongside these organizers and activists by taking proactive steps to address systemic racism,” said Glenn Harris, president of Race Forward and publisher of Colorlines. “One important way they can do this is by establishing a White House Racial Equity & Inclusion Office. This idea is not new; there is a growing field of practice amongst local and state governments to address and uproot systemic racism across all functions of government. As James Baldwin stated, ‘Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.’ A White House Racial Equity & Inclusion Office will institutionalize a mechanism to allow us to face and change racial injustices.”
UnidosUS: “An honest and comprehensive reckoning with our nation’s racial history, and enacting solutions to address it, is perhaps the transcendent issue of our time. The path forward may be difficult, complicated, and contested, but it is essential to pursue. Creating an office within the White House to coordinate the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to reduce racial inequality in all of its forms is a crucial first step toward ensuring that our country lives up to its core shared value of equal opportunity for all Americans,” said Janet Murguia, president of UnidosUS.
To learn more about the Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative and speak with the organizers, please contact Jessica Sarstedt at [email protected] or +1.202.802.1835 .
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The Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative includes the following leading national racial equity anchor organizations (the Anchors): Advancement Project National Office, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Demos, Faith in Action, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Urban League, Race Forward, and UnidosUS. Supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we work together to promote racial equity, advance racial healing, and ensure that all children, families, and communities have opportunities to reach their full potential.