“Today, the average black family has just one tenth the wealth of the average white family”: Susan Rice highlights Biden’s agenda on racial equity in America Updated for 2021

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Updated: March 5, 2021

President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice returned to the White House podium on Tuesday with a message of hope.

“It’s good to be back,” the former National Security Advisor under the Obama-Biden administration said as she spoke about the racial equity executive order the President later signed.

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“The President has committed the whole of our government to advancing racial justice and equity for all Americans,” Rice told reporters from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.

“I’m leading this effort out of the Domestic Policy Council. I have assembled a first-rate team to drive this agenda forward. We will hold the federal government accountable for advancing equity for families across America,” Rice added.

Rice began by explaining the racial crisis America faces before calling for “urgent federal action to meet this moment.”

She said: “Today, the average black family has just one tenth the wealth of the average white family, while the gap between the white and black — between white and black in homeownership is now larger than it was in 1960.
 
“These longstanding inequities are compounded by the converging crises we face as a nation.  Americans of color are being infected by and dying from COVID-19 at higher rates.
 
“One in ten black Americans and one in eleven Latino workers are currently unemployed.  By some estimates, 40 percent of black-owned businesses have been forced to close for good during the COVID crisis.
 
“Black and Latino families with children are twice as likely to be experiencing food insecurity during the pandemic as white families.  And black and Latino Americans are 2.8 times more likely to die of COVID-19.
 
“And for Native communities across the country, the overlapping economic and health crises have devastated tribal economies and healthcare systems.
 
“These are desperate times for so many Americans, and all Americans need urgent federal action to meet this moment.”

Read her full remarks below:

AMBASSADOR RICE:  Good afternoon, everyone.  It’s good to be back.  Jen, thanks.  
 
The President has committed the whole of our government to advancing racial justice and equity for all Americans.  I’m leading this effort out of the Domestic Policy Council.  I have assembled a first-rate team to drive this agenda forward. We will hold the federal government accountable for advancing equity for families across America.
 
I have the support of every White House office and every agency in this work, because as President Biden has made clear, advancing equity is everybody’s job.
 
Tackling these challenges, though, is personal for me.  I’m the descendant of immigrants from Jamaica and enslaved Americans.  My grandparents and my parents are beneficiaries of the American Dream — and so am I.  My family’s story is a remarkable one of the march towards greater equality and opportunity.
 
But for too many American families, systemic racism and inequality in our economy, laws, and institutions still put the American Dream far out of reach.
 
Today, the average black family has just one tenth the wealth of the average white family, while the gap between the white and black — between white and black in homeownership is now larger than it was in 1960.
 
These longstanding inequities are compounded by the converging crises we face as a nation.  Americans of color are being infected by and dying from COVID-19 at higher rates.
 
One in ten black Americans and one in eleven Latino workers are currently unemployed.  By some estimates, 40 percent of black-owned businesses have been forced to close for good during the COVID crisis.
 
Black and Latino families with children are twice as likely to be experiencing food insecurity during the pandemic as white families.  And black and Latino Americans are 2.8 times more likely to die of COVID-19.
 
And for Native communities across the country, the overlapping economic and health crises have devastated tribal economies and healthcare systems.
 
These are desperate times for so many Americans, and all Americans need urgent federal action to meet this moment.
 
Today, President Biden will deliver a national address on his plans to advance racial justice and equity, starting with an equitable and inclusive recovery.  President Biden will renew the federal government’s commitment to making the American Dream real for families across the nation by taking ambitious steps to redress inequality in our economy and expand opportunity for communities that have been left behind, including communities of color.
 
His economic plans make historic investments in underserved communities and put equity at the heart of our recovery.  His ambitious agenda builds on a legacy of Americans forging opportunity out of crisis.
 
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.  Economists have estimated that the U.S. economy has lost a staggering $16 trillion over the last 20 years because of discrimination against families of color.  If we closed racial gaps in income and opportunity, these same economists have estimated we could add $5 trillion to the U.S. economy over the next five years and add over 6 million new jobs for all Americans.
 
So building a more equitable economy is essential if Americans are going to compete and thrive in the 21st century.
 
We have hit the ground running to embed equity throughout the administration.  On day one, the President signed an executive order directing an unprecedented whole-of-government initiative to embed racial equity across federal policies, programs, and institutions.  That starts with a review of policies and institutions to redress systemic racism where it exists and to advance equity where we aren’t doing enough.
 
Every agency will place equity at the core of their public engagement, their policy design, and program delivery to ensure that government resources are reaching Americans of color and all marginalized communities — rural, urban, disabled, LGBTQ+, religious minorities, and so many others.
 
The President has put equity at the center of his response to the COVID-19 and economic crises.  His executive orders signed last week deliver rent relief, student debt reprieve, and emergency food assistance to families across the country, helping all Americans, including black and brown families who we know are being hit hardest by this crisis.
 
And he took steps to make our broken immigration system more humane and secure.  He restored the integrity of the census so that our constitutionally mandated accounting of every person in the United States is fair and inclusive.
 
And even before taking office, President Biden released his American Rescue Plan that will make historic investments in advancing equity.  Independent economists estimate that his plan will cut child poverty in half — cut child poverty in half for all Americans — and reduce overall poverty in America by 30 percent.
 
Black families this year will face a poverty rate of 20 percent if Congress does not act on the American Rescue Plan.  But if enacted, the poverty rate would fall by over one third, and it’d fall by 40 percent for Latino families and by one fifth for American — for Asian American and Pacific Islander families.
 
The American Rescue Plan also provides critical relief to Native American communities and tribes.  These investments will lift over 8 million black, Latino, and Asian Americans out of poverty and provide relief across sectors where families of color are most disproportionately impacted by this crisis: in food and financial security, healthcare access, and education and childcare. 
 
Today, President Biden is continuing his commitment to embedding equity at the center of his agenda by signing an additional package of executive actions.  The President will sign a memorandum directing the Department of Housing and Urban Development to mitigate racial bias in housing and affirmatively advance our nation’s fair housing laws.  
 
He will also sign an executive order directing the Department of Justice not to renew any contracts with private prisons.  Private prisons profiteer off of federal prisoners and are proven to be — or found to be by the Department of Justice Inspector General to be less safe for correctional officers and for prisoners.  President Biden is committed to reducing mass incarceration while making our communities safer.  That starts with ending the federal government’s reliance on private prisons.
 
The President will also sign an executive order reinvigorating the commitment of all federal agencies to engage in regular, robust, and meaningful consultation with tribal governments. 
 
And the President will sign a memorandum directing all federal agencies to take steps to combat xenophobia and acts of violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have been targeted by political leaders in our nation’s response to COVID-19.
    
Again, these are a continuation of our initial steps to advance racial justice and equity through early executive action.
 
Beyond this, the President is committed to working with Congress to advance equity in our economy, our criminal justice systems, our healthcare systems, and in our schools. 
 
As I’ve said many times in my personal capacity, and I say again, I believe we all rise or fall together.  Advancing equity is a critical part of healing and of restoring unity in our nation.  The President will have more to say about all of this later this afternoon.

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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