The Biden-Harris Commitment to Racial Equity

“We’re building an America where we recognize the inherent dignity of every single person, and where every American has the chance to live a life of purpose and meaning. This is my vision for the future.”
– President Joe Biden, 2024 State of Black America

Before he was elected President of the United States, Joe Biden made history by becoming the first major-party general election candidate to develop an agenda for Black America: Lift Every Voice.

On his first day in office, he made history again by signing Executive Order 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities, which 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.”

More than three years into his presidency, as he asks voters to elect him to another term, the National Urban League developed a special section of the 2024 State of Black America®, Evaluation for Progress: Report on the Biden Harris Administration.

In doing so, we honor the legacy of the man who originated The State of Black America, Vernon Jordan, who passed away three years ago this week. The 1976 report was a scathing response to President Gerald Ford’s State of The Union Address, which failed to make a single mention of the plight of African Americans.

“The slow but steady decline in racial cooperation and in the black condition became, in 1975, a headlong rush into the deep pit of depression and hardship,” Jordan wrote. “The condition of black Americans, once the benchmark of America’s commitment to equality in justice, is now the object of malign neglect and hostile disregard.”

In contrast, President Biden placed racial equity at the center of his Administration, committing that it would shape the legislation, regulations, federal investments, and agency actions his Administration championed. As our report makes clear, 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.

Candidate Biden promised to invest in Black America and improve the economy. When President Biden took office, the unemployment rate was 6.3%. Today, it’s 3.7%. The Black unemployment rate was 9.2%. Today, it’s 5.3%.

Candidate Biden promised a cabinet and senior staff that reflects the soul of America. The Biden White House is the most diverse in American history, with nearly 50% of current appointees identifying as people of color. Most notably, his Vice President is the first Black woman in history to hold the office, and he appointed – as promised – the first Black woman Supreme Court Justice.

Candidate Biden promised to expand health care access. Under the Biden Administration, the Affordable Care Act has flourished. In the most recent enrollment period, more than 20 million Americans have signed up for plans, a record-breaking eight million more enrollments than previously recorded.

Parts of President Biden’s equity agenda, unfortunately, have been blocked by Congress and an ultra-conservative Supreme Court.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would have restored anti-discrimination protections in the Voting Rights Act that were gutted by the Supreme Court. The Freedom to Vote Act would have expanded opportunities to register to vote and cast a ballot, and it would have prevented voter suppression through partisan gerrymandering and unlawful voter purges. President Biden gave a landmark address in January 2022 in Georgia, ground zero for voting rights, where he called for an end to the Senate filibuster to prevent a minority of Senators from blocking these bills. Filibuster reform can be accomplished by a simple majority in the Senate, which Democrats had. Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona refused to change the filibuster rule for voting rights, however, blocking both bills.

Please visit to read the full evaluation of the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to racial justice, and review our livestream replay from March 5, for a presentation of the entire report.

Marc Morial is President and CEO of the National Urban League.

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