On January 20, 2021, President Biden signed Executive Order 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. His first executive order on his first day in office, EO 13985 declared “Equal opportunity is the bedrock of American democracy, and our diversity is one of our country’s greatest strengths.” Acknowledging “the unbearable human costs of systemic racism,” the order made an unprecedented commitment to tackle inequality: “Affirmatively advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice, and equal opportunity is the responsibility of the whole of our Government.” President Biden required every agency to assess its policies and programs for barriers to Black Americans and other underserved communities, and to develop concrete strategies to deliver resources and benefits equitably.

No president had ever done this before. By putting equity at the center of his administration, President Biden committed that it would shape the legislation, regulations, federal investments, and agency actions his administration championed. As explained in detail below, that commitment has resulted in meaningful policy changes for Black Americans across economic opportunity, education, health care, criminal justice, housing, the environment, and civil rights protections. Parts of President Biden’s equity agenda, unfortunately, have been blocked by Congress and an ultra-conservative Supreme Court. These barriers are also discussed below.

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