A day after President Joe Biden ordered the Department of Justice to acknowledge the central role government has played in implementing discriminatory housing policies, News4Jax spoke with a racial diversity expert on The Morning Show who said Biden’s moves are a step in the right direction.
But it’s going to take more to bridge the gap with the Black community.
“I think that honesty is imperative, but also funding. Too often we hear this rhetoric of equity and equality and that we’re all starting from the same vantage point when the reality is because of systemic racism, that’s not at all the case,” said Dr. Tammy Hodo, the founder of All Things Diverse, an educational consulting company. “(Biden) touched on that when he talked about the federal housing administration and redlining and housing covenants and how certain groups have been impeded from actually fulfilling the American dream of homeownership.”
In remarks before signing the orders on Tuesday, Biden said the U.S. government needs to change “its whole approach” on the issue of racial equity. He added that the nation is less prosperous and secure because of the scourge of systemic racism.
“We must change now,” the president said. “I know it’s going to take time, but I know we can do it. And I firmly believe the nation is ready to change. But government has to change as well."
Hodo said the key will be buy in from the American people.
“People need to understand that we are not seeing equity in American society. When we look at the stats, we see that for African-American children, the infant mortality rate in America is comparable to third-world nations. We know that African-American women, Indigenous and Hispanic women are more prone to die during childbirth than any other group,” Hodo said. “There’s just a lot of work that needs to be done, and I really hope that our society -- after a lot of divisive rhetoric -- is prepared to make that change.”
Biden rose to the presidency during a year of intense reckoning on institutional racism in the U.S. The moves announced Tuesday reflect his efforts to follow through with campaign pledges to combat racial injustice.
In addition to calling on the Justice Department to curb the use of private prisons and address housing discrimination, the new orders will recommit the federal government to respect tribal sovereignty and disavow discrimination against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community over the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden directed the Department of Housing and Urban Development in a memorandum to take steps to promote equitable housing policy. The memorandum calls for HUD to examine the effects of Trump regulatory actions that may have undermined fair housing policies and laws.
Months before the November election, the Trump administration rolled back an Obama-era rule that required communities that wanted to receive HUD funding to document and report patterns of racial bias.
“I think that it’s going to take a lot of work. There’s going to have to be relationships that are going to have to be built, and we’re going to have to be very transparent with those relationships,” Hodo said. “It’s going to take dedication. It’s going to take funding. It’s going to take some very uncomfortable conversations that people need to begin to become comfortable with.”
Biden’s victory over Trump in several battleground states, including Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, was fueled by strong Black voter turnout.
Throughout his campaign and transition, Biden promised that his administration would keep issues of equity — as well as climate change, another issue he views as an existential crisis — in the shaping of all policy considerations.
Biden, who followed through on an early promise to pick a woman to serve as vice president, has also sought to spotlight the diversity of his Cabinet selections.
On Monday, the Senate confirmed Biden’s pick for treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, who is the first woman to lead the department. Last week, the Senate confirmed Lloyd Austin as the nation’s first Black defense secretary.
Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo and Aaron Morrison contributed to this report.