Biden-Harris Administration takes historic approach to advancing racial equity, Death of Colin Powell & More: Oct. 21 Roundup

Biden Administration

Track record on racial equity: The White House released a fact sheet outlining policies to date aimed at advancing racial equity and creating opportunities for Black Americans. Policies and programs highlighted include federal agencies being directed by President Biden to grow federal contracting with small, Black-owned businesses, extending cash relief to Black communities through the American Rescue Plan, and measures to protect home values and access to housing for Black families. The fact sheet also points to policies aimed at criminal justice reform, improving health care outcomes in Black communities, and advancing educational opportunities in K-12 schools and higher education.

Executive order on educational equity: President Biden issued an executive order to address disparities and inequities in education faced by Black students. The Executive Order on White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans includes several policy goals including increasing access to early childhood education programs for Black children and families; eradicating discriminatory referrals to special education; reducing excessive disciplinary actions; and implementing evidence-based strategies to increase the participation and success of Black students at all levels of education. The Executive Order establishes an Executive Director, an Interagency Working Group, and a Presidential Advisory Commission to advance this work, and replaces a similar initiative on African American Educational Excellence established by President Obama in 2012 (Joint Center President Spencer Overton served on the Advisory Commission to that earlier initiative).

Treatment of Black migrants challenged: In the aftermath of highly publicized treatment of Haitian immigrants apprehended in Del Rio, Texas, for deportation, The New York Times reports that the Biden Administration continues to be pressed by Haitian Americans and other civil rights groups to end a history of poor treatment of Black migrants. The Hill reports that demonstrations around the country will be led by the Haitian Bridge Alliance against “cruel asylum policies,” after a coalition of advocacy groups ran a full-page ad in the Washington, D.C. edition of The New York Times last week.

Biden’s nominee Rahm Emanuel under scrutiny for involvement in Black teenager killing: Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s hearing this week to become President Biden’s pick for top envoy to Japan hinges on whether the Black community in Chicago still supports Emanuel. Dashboard-camera video of the killing of Chicago teenager Laquan McDonald appeared to be deliberately delayed in its release until after Emanuel won his second term for mayor. Reportedly, Emanuel defended his record and claimed to have letters of support from the McDonald family as well as Black clergy.

The Hill

CBC members mourn the loss of Colin Powell: The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and several of its members including U.S. Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), and Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) released statements on the passing of Colin Powell. See our statement by Joint Center President Spencer Overton and watch a Joint Center address by General Powell here.

Congress staffers ongoing struggle for diversity: The New York Times reports that the latest exodus of Black staffers from Congress is being accompanied by renewed calls for changes including better pay and a stronger “college-to-Congress” pipeline to recruit Black congressional aides. Members of the Congressional Black Associates and Senate Black Legislative Staff Caucus penned an open letter calling for “clear pathways for recruitment and career advancement,” the Washingtonian reports. The letter cites a 2020 study by the Joint Center which reveals that Black people make up only 3 percent of senior Senate staff, only two of 100 Senate chiefs of staff, and fewer than 30 chief of staffs to 435 lawmakers in the House. Joint Center Senior Fellow of Diversity and Inclusion Dr. LaShonda Brenson was quoted in the Times article.

Fight to protect racial justice agenda: Politico reports that lawmakers, led by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), are fighting to protect racial justice legislation and other programs to close racial equity gaps from being weakened or cut. With President Biden under pressure to reduce the cost of his “Build Back Better” package, Democratic lawmakers are maintaining vigilance against potential cuts to provisions to increase health care and economic aid.

Upcoming congressional hearings includeProtecting Lives and Livelihoods: Vaccine Requirements and Employee Accommodations” (House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, Oct. 26); “Hearings to examine emerging threats to election administration.” (Senate Rules and Administration, Oct. 26); and “United States Global COVID-19 Response: Actions Taken & Future Needs” (House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, Oct. 27).

Movement Building

NAACP LDF and other civil rights organizations sent a letter to Louisiana House and Senate Governmental Affairs Committees on their obligation to comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act during redistricting. The group urges the state legislature to adopt a congressional map with two majority-minority districts to ensure Black voters have an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.

NAACP LDF, Project Say Something, and Alabama NAACP urged the Alabama Department of Education to reject a proposed anti-truth law, which could suppress truthful discussions about race, gender, and United States history.

Members of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law won a ruling to uphold the race-conscious admissions policy at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.


Upcoming events include the 65th Annual Equal Opportunity Dinner (National Urban League, Oct. 21).