The Time Is Now To Create a White House Office for Racial Equity

The Time Is Now To Create a White House Office for Racial Equity

Thousands of people gather at Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House to celebrate the announcement that Joe Biden will be the 46th president of the United States, Washington, November 2020.

Washington, D.C. — In his victory speech Saturday night, President-elect Joe Biden pledged to have the African American community’s back. As the Biden transition team takes steps to stand up the new administration, an issue brief from the Center for American Progress calls on the administration to make concrete, intentional steps to fulfill this promise. Prior to the pandemic, the average net worth of a white family was 10 times greater than that of a Black family and seven times greater than that of a Latinx family. And the COVID-19 crisis has only exacerbated long-standing economic and health inequities for communities of color. To effectively address these issues, the new brief calls for the creation of a White House Office of Racial Equity under the Biden administration.

The brief explains that the White House office could be created through executive order and formally sit inside either the Domestic Policy Council or the National Economic Council. The mission of this office would be to prioritize and ensure that racially equitable policy priorities are implemented during the administration; chief among these priorities should be aggressively taking action to eliminate the racial wealth gap. The executive order creating the office should also call for federal agencies—especially the U.S. departments of Treasury, Commerce, and Health and Human Services—to coordinate with the White House Office of Racial Equity.

In addition to the creation of a White House Office of Racial Equity, the brief provides a menu of additional actions that the Biden administration could take to build racial equity into policymaking and to address the racial wealth gap specifically. For example, the brief suggests the appointment of a senior adviser to the president on racial equity. This individual would be charged with coordinating administration-wide efforts to close the racial wealth gap, as well as advancing racially equitable economic policies across the federal government that would affect the racial wealth gap. The senior adviser would be supported by dedicated staff who could be detailed from federal agencies.

The brief discusses several other ideas that the new administration could take to address the racial wealth gap, including ensuring racial equity within the Executive Office of the President and working with Congress to modify the goals of the Council of Economic Advisers, with a member whose primary academic focus would be race. Moreover, the administration should establish an interagency task force that would provide concrete steps that each federal agency could take in order to increase wealth for Black communities as well as communities of color more broadly.

“If not now, when?”, asks Danyelle Solomon, vice president of Race and Ethnicity Policy at the Center for American Progress. “COVID-19 has shined a spotlight on and exacerbated long-standing racial disparities in our society. The pandemic has laid bare what many of us have long known: that for more than 400 years, federal, state, and local governments have created policies to harm black people in particular and people of color more broadly. The Biden administration has a real opportunity to right this wrong by taking intentional steps to eliminate the biggest economic issue of our day—the racial wealth gap—through the creation of a White House Office of Racial Equity that is laser-focused on this issue. Starting January 20, the Biden administration can start making the necessary structural changes to U.S. policy to ensure racial equity in our society.”

This issue brief is part of a body of work created by the National Advisory Council on Eliminating the Black-White Wealth Gap and the Center for American Progress.

Related resources:

Read the issue brief: “The Time Is Now To Create a White House Office for Racial Equity” by Danyelle Solomon and Lily Roberts