After giving his inaugural address and visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with Presidents Bush, Clinton, and Obama, President Joseph Biden got down to business in the Oval Office. Biden signed 17 Executive Orders (E.O.s) making drastic changes to federal government policies and making good on commitments he made while campaigning for the post. In many cases, Biden reversed policies that had been firmly opposed by ASCB.
One of the most significant E.O.s was one declaring that it is the “policy of my Administration that the Federal Government should pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically under served, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality. Affirmatively advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice, and equal opportunity is the responsibility of the whole of our Government. Because advancing equity requires a systematic approach to embedding fairness in decision-making processes, executive departments and agencies must recognize and work to redress inequities in their policies and programs that serve as barriers to equal opportunity.”
In September 2020, the Trump Administration issued an E.O. halting all diversity training within the federal government and putting a stop to federally supported grant programs to teach diversity in various communities, including the scientific community. The White House stopped the programs, claiming that they “promote race or sex-stereotyping or scapegoating in the Federal workforce.”
The summer of 2020 was one of protests about the racial injustice that continues to afflict the United States. In its statement opposing the Trump E.O., the ASCB said, “Rather than showing us the way to reconciliation, the Trump White House has issued an Executive Order that attacks efforts by the federal government to heal decades-old racial divisions within the U.S.”
The E.O. issued by the Biden Administration revokes the Trump E.O. but also requires that each federal agency “assess whether, and to what extent, its programs, and policies perpetuate systemic barriers to opportunities and benefits for people of color and other under-served groups.” The White House Domestic Policy Council and the White House Office of Management and Budget will lead the government-wide review. The high-level leadership signals how serious the new President takes this issue and sends a very clear signal to federal agencies that they should take it seriously too.
About the Author:
Kevin M. Wilson serves as Director of Public Policy and Media Relations for The American Society for Cell Biology. He's worked as the Legislative Director for U.S. Congressman Robert Weygand (D-RI) and as a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI). He has a BA in Politics and American Government from the Catholic University of America. Email: email@example.com