President Joe Biden signed a series of executive orders Tuesday afternoon that deal with racial 'equity.'
He credited the death of George Floyd as an inflection point turning America against 'systemic racism and white supremacy.'
'Those eight minutes and 46 seconds that took George Floyd's life, opened the eyes of millions of Americans and millions of people all over the world,' Biden said. 'It was the knee on the neck of justice and it wouldn't be forgotten.
'It stirred the consciousness of tens of millions of Americans and in my view it marked a turning point in this country's attitude toward racial justice,' Biden continued.
Biden signed four orders including one that instructs the Department of Justice not to renew contracts with private prisons. He also signed a memorandum directing the Department of Housing and Urban Development to mitigate racial bias in housing.
He signed an order reaffirming the federal government's commitment to tribal sovereignty.
And he signed a memorandum condemning xenophobia against Asian Americans, which has been on the rise since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic - taking aim at former President Donald Trump's use of the term 'China virus.'
'Look, in the weeks ahead, I'll be reaffirming the federal government's commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and accessibility, building on the work we started in the Obama-Biden administration,' he said.
'That's why I'm rescinding the previous administration's harmful ban on diversity and sensitivity training and abolishing the offensive and counter-factual 1776 Commission,' Biden said. 'Unity and healing must begin with understanding and truth, not ignorance and lies.'
President Joe Biden (right) signed four executive orders Tuesday that deal with racial equity with Vice President Kamala Harris (left) at his side
Biden credited the death of George Floyd (pictured) with jumpstarting the country into action to defeat white supremacy
Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice outlined some of the executive orders and memos Biden would sign later Tuesday during the press briefing
PRESIDENT BIDEN'S 'EQUITY' ORDERS
Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships
The order 'charges all executive departments and agencies with engaging in regular, meaningful, and robust consultation with Tribal officials in the development of Federal policies that have Tribal implications.'
Condemning and Combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States
The order condemns acts of racism toward the Asian-American and Pacific-Islander community and orders the Health and Human Services secretary and other public health professionals to mitigate 'racially discriminatory language in describing the COVID-19 pandemic.'
It effectively rebukes Trump for calling COVID 'the China virus' and
'The Federal Government must recognize that it has played a role in furthering these xenophobic sentiments through the actions of political leaders, including references to the COVID-19 pandemic by the geographic location of its origin. Such statements have stoked unfounded fears and perpetuated stigma about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and have contributed to increasing rates of bullying, harassment, and hate crimes against AAPI persons,' the order says.
Reforming Our Incarceration System to Eliminate the Use of Privately Operated Criminal Detention Facilities
'The Attorney General shall not renew Department of Justice contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities, as consistent with applicable law.' Private prisons are accused of being more likely to mistreat prisoners
Redressing Our Nation's and the Federal Government's History of Discriminatory Housing Practices and Policies
This memorandum recognizes the central role the federal government has played implementing housing policies across the United States, from redlining to mortgage discrimination to destructive federal highway construction, that have had racially discriminatory impacts. This Presidential Memorandum directs HUD to examine the effects of the previous Administration's regulatory actions that undermined fair housing policies and laws. And, it directs HUD to take steps necessary based on that analysis to fully implement the Fair Housing Act's requirements.
Just hours into his presidency, Biden dissolved Trump's 1776 Commission, which was formed in September partially in response to The New York Times' 1619 Project.
It became highly controversial for trying to reframe American history as starting with the arrival of the first slaves in 1619 and being defined by first slavery and then its aftermath ever since.
It drew heated attacks over its accuracy - particularly a claim that the inspiration for the Declaration of Independence from Britain was in part because the colonies wanted to 'protect the institution of slavery.'
As part of his pre-election culture war, Trump attacked the project and called for American children to be given a 'patriotic education' not one that demonizes the white founders.
That same month, he banned racial sensitivity training for federal workers and government contractors - including critical race theory, another lightning rod for controversy.
Trump had also embraced a 'law and order' candidacy and etched out policy positions such as statues and military bases named after Confederate generals should remain.
Earlier CNN reported that Biden would form a policing commission that would try to prevent deaths like that of Floyd. He did not make that move Tuesday.
The president did link racial inequality with the COVID-19 pandemic, noting 'the devastation in communities of color has been nothing short of stunning.'
'Black and Latino Americans are dying of COVID-19 at rates nearly three times that of white Americans,' Biden said. 'It's not white Americans fault, it's just a fact - and the Americans now know it, especially younger Americans.'
Biden said that while economic studies prove John F. Kennedy's statement that 'a rising tide lifts all boats,' he pointed out that it's fairly obvious.
'Just imagine if instead of consigning millions of American children to under-resourced schools, we gave each and every three, four-year-old child a chance to learn, go to school, not daycare, school, and grow and thrive in school,' Biden said.
'Does anyone in this whole nation not think we're all better off if that were to happen?' he mused.
Earlier, Susan Rice, the director of the United States Domestic Policy Council, had previewed the four orders.
Rice, too, talked about economic opportunity at the briefing.
'Today the average black family has just one-tenth the wealth as the average white family,' Rice said in her opening remarks at the briefing.
'These aren't feel good policies, the evidence is clear, investing in equity is good for economic growth and it creates jobs for all Americans,' Rice continued.
Rice cited a figure that $16 trillion has been lost over a 20-year period because of discrimination.
By closing racial gaps in income and opportunity, $5 trillion could be added to the U.S. economy over the next five years, she said.
Trump had unveiled the commission in September before a culture-war speech in the wake of Black Lives Maters protests and efforts to remove the statues of figures from American history associated with slavery, and Christopher Columbus.
The president tore into 'radicals' for causing 'mayhem' on the nation's streets, and sought repeatedly to tie them to his political adversaries.
'These radicals have been aided and abetted by liberal politicians, establishment media and even large corporations,' Trump said.
The order revoked by Biden was written by then head of the Office of Management and Budget, Russ Vought.
WHY CRITICAL RACE THEORY IS CONTROVERSIAL
Diversity and inclusion training is often a requirement for employees working for federal and state governments.
The training - which is often expensive - is covered by taxpayer dollars.
But the inclusion of what is broadly known as 'critical race theory' has been highly controversial.
Broadly, critical race theory says that white supremacy is an ideology which is baked into the structures of society and particularly the law - and that to deal with everyone who is white should acknowledge how they have benefited from it, or become 'privileged.'
But critics say that it leaves people exposed to the training feeling that they are being blamed for problems which they did not cause - such as slavery and Jim Crow - and that it is itself racially divisive.
Critics - such as the conservative Heritage Foundation - also say it ignores the problems poor white communities face such as - for example - opioid addiction and long-term joblessness in the Appalachians and the rust belt.
And they say it backfires by creating identity groups rather than envisioning the U.S. as a melting point where race should not matter.
The Heritage Foundation has also pointed to how employees at CRT courses are pushed to become activists, and pushed to admit their own 'guilt' in front of their colleagues - to the shame and embarrassment of some who do.
Far from uniting workplaces, critics claim, it divides them further, the Foundation says.