The President as a figurehead

Biden is nothing but a return to the same oppression that America has always stood for, no matter how many executive orders he signs.

With the election of President Joe Biden and the return of the status quo, there has been a collective sigh of relief from many Americans. At the promise of no longer being assaulted by the white supremacy and oppression that rules this nation, the promise to sweep it all back under the rug and to continue to assert ourselves as the land of the free. To “reunite the country” and to continue to make symbolic gestures rather than radical change. But the reality is that it doesn’t matter how many executive orders he signs, or how many empty promises he makes. 

The costs of these actions are clear, the status quo was the problem and BIPOC can no longer afford to be collateral damage for white comfort in America. Biden was always just a way to get Trump out of office, and for many that was enough. His first week was filled with executive orders signed in the name of reversing Trump’s America. But these orders do little more than that, they are not a sign of true progress. 

At first glance many of Biden’s initiatives may seem to be a sign of progress, but when explored in more depth, it becomes clear how much is really missing. In the New York Times article, “Biden’s 17 Executive Orders and Other Directives in Detail,” Aishvarya Kavi explains these orders concisely, allowing us to examine what the true impact of these orders will be. 

Among the executive orders signed by Biden, there are a number that deal with immigration issues.  Amid these orders is one that supports the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. This program was created to protect immigrants brought to the United States as children from deportation, and Biden’s order “also calls on Congress to enact legislation providing permanent status and a path to citizenship for those immigrants,” according to Kavi.

Other orders include blocking attempts to “exclude noncitizens from the census count.” Overturning “a Trump executive order that pushed aggressive efforts to find and deport unauthorized immigrants.” And ending “the so-called Muslim ban, which blocked travel to the United States from several predominantly Muslim and African countries.” As well as the termination of the national emergency declaration that allowed funds to be redirected to construction of the wall on the US-Mexican border wall, thus halting construction.

While each of these are great initial steps, they are nothing to celebrate. They signify only a return to the same abusive, racist immigration system that existed previously. These actions are not bold enough, people are still at great risk under the immigration system as it exists currently. Hundreds of thousands of people are still detained in inhumane conditions, hundreds of thousands of people are still being denied at our border, children are still being separated from their parents and efforts to reunite families are not being prioritized. The actions being taken surrounding immigration are not enough, and more lives will continue to be lost and harmed under the Biden administration, just as they were under Obama’s.

As Kavi continues, aside from orders surrounding immigration are those that Biden signed focusing on climate change. Deciding to re-center the U.S. in the Paris climate accord has been one of Biden’s most popular orders thus far. While a nice symbolic gesture, the Paris climate accord falls far short of any meaningful change. The goals of these accords are selfish and prioritize western “developed” countries’ profits along with their continued exploitation of the global south over any meaningful action on climate change. 

Biden also focused on reversing many of the environmental policies introduced by Trump’s administration, “including revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline; reversing the rollbacks to vehicle emissions standards; undoing decisions to slash the size of several national monuments; enforcing a temporary moratorium on oil and natural gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; and re-establishing a working group on the social costs of greenhouse gasses.” 

While strides like these appear to be a good start, they are far from what is needed when it comes to climate change. Biden’s refusal to ban fracking and his oversight on major issues, such as The Dakota Access Pipeline, show the true colors of his administration; they do not care about the environment or the peoples whose lands are being irreversibly damaged, they care about profit and their ability to get away with doing the bare minimum for people and the planet. 

Finally, executive orders emphasizing justice and equality for BIPOC were signed. Among them, Biden reversed “Trump’s executive order limiting the ability of federal agencies, contractors and other institutions to hold diversity and inclusion training. Biden also “designated Susan E. Rice, who is the head of his Domestic Policy Council, as the leader of a ‘robust, interagency’ effort requiring all federal agencies to make ‘rooting out systemic racism’ central to their work.” An emphasis was also placed on “[ensuring] that Americans of all backgrounds have equal access to federal government resources, benefits and services.”

These goals fall incredibly flat, especially in light of the sustained efforts of the BLM movement. Biden fails to address the real issues facing communities of color and claims to envision a world without systematic inequality while simultaneously making no real efforts towards achieving this goal. 

Creating a “data working group as well as the study of new methods to measure and assess federal equity and diversity efforts” is just one small piece of a much larger puzzle, and it is a far cry from the structural change that has been demanded by communities of color across the United States of America. 

We are still seeing our people murdered at the hands of the state and its officers, we are still seeing our people unjustly imprisoned at higher rates and with longer sentences, and we are still facing unequal access to housing, education, and job opportunities. 

On inauguration day, with one hand on his family Bible and the other hand raised to the American people Biden swore his oath to the office of the President of the United States of America. He swore an oath to “unite the nation” and to bring back all that America has stood for. With that, he swore that he does not care of the cost to BIPOC in this country if it means maintaining the comfort and privilege of White America. Biden has shown his hand with these symbolic executive orders. We cannot afford the inaction of those in office, and we cannot fall for their political theater. 

This status quo is deadly to BIPOC. Lives are being lost every day in this country and abroad because people are afraid of radical change. We don’t have the luxury of waiting for those in power to do the right thing, we never did. White comfort has always come at the cost of BIPOC’s lives, and we must refuse to be complicit in these deaths any longer.