A White House senior adviser said that it’s possible for President Joe Biden to begin taking steps toward achieving redress for slavery and discriminatory practices and dismantling systemic racism in his first term, during a Sunday interview.
Cedric Richmond told Axios that while he’s confident reparations bill H.R. 40 will pass, there is no need to “wait on a study” and that the work towards breaking down race-based barriers can begin while Congress studies reparations.
“We don’t have to wait on a study. We’re going to start acting now,” Richmond said. “We have to start breaking down systematic racism and barriers that have held people of color back, and especially African Americans. We have to do stuff now.”
Richmond, who served as a House member from Louisiana for more than a decade, is one of the highest-ranking Black officials in the Biden administration, and one of the president’s closest advisors.
He said it’s not possible to nail-down an exact timeline for a reparations commission, but that “if you start talking about free college tuition to [historically Black colleges and universities] and you start talking about free community college in Title I and all of those things, I think that you are well on your way.”
Last month the House heard testimony regarding bill H.R. 40, which would create a commission to examine the impact of American slavery and the discriminatory policies and practices that followed to recommend potential remedies, including financial payments from the government to descendants of slaves.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last month that Biden supports the concept of studying the issue.
“He certainly would support a study of reparations,” Psaki said at the White House briefing. “He understands we don’t need a study to take action right now on systemic racism, so he wants to take actions within his own government in the meantime.”
Richmond said Biden felt urgency to begin making progress on race relations and pointed to the president’s January executive actions to “advance racial equity and take first steps to root out systemic racism in housing and criminal justice.”
Specifically, Biden directed the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in January, “to take steps necessary to redress racially discriminatory federal housing policies that have contributed to wealth inequality.”
While Psaki expressed that Biden supports studying reparations, she stopped short of saying whether he would sign the bill should it clear Congress.