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National Urban League President & CEO Marc Morial on racial inequity

National Urban League President & CEO Marc Morial joins Yahoo Finance's Kristin Myers and anchors Seana Smith and Adam Shapiro to discuss the current climate of racial inequity and social injustice in the United States.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: Welcome back. Well, another key area of focus for the Biden administration is addressing concerns over longtime racial inequality here in America. We want to bring in Yahoo Finance's Kristin Myers who, of course, has been closely following this for us.

And Kristin, it's been just over 25 days. But the Biden administration has already made this a top priority clearly. Just walk us through some of the actions. And what has been done on this front so far?

KRISTIN MYERS: Yeah, so when President Biden was elected, he essentially made a promise to the black community that he would have their back since it was essentially the black vote that really helped Biden clinch victory during the presidential election. So he's already signed some executive orders and made some other moves to promote racial justice.

So one of the first orders was for the administration to advance racial equity. And in that executive order, Biden said, quote, "that federal resources would be allocated to advance fairness and opportunity." But he's got a couple of other executive actions that he's already signed in just this first month that he's been in office.

So I want to start first on the use of private prisons. He's ending the Department of Justice's use of private prisons. And research does show that minorities are overrepresented in the private prison population that they face worse conditions than inmates in public prison. So a slight victory there.

He's also decided to reaffirm the federal government's, quote, "commitment to tribal sovereignty." And they've also essentially ordered all federal agencies to really strengthen and re-commit to having tribal consultations. And then as we've seen lately this rise of anti Asian sentiment.

The Biden administration did sign a memo to essentially address xenophobia against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. And then just one last executive action that the Biden-Harris administration already signed essentially aimed to undo rules from the Trump administration that essentially made it harder for people, plaintiffs, people who are suing, to prove unintentional discrimination in the housing process.

They've also in that executive order said that they're going to be making moves to address discriminatory federal housing policies. But guys, like a lot of these moves, some say do not go far enough. For example, when it comes to those private prisons, executive action, other federal agencies are still allowed to contract with private prisons.

This is just a move for the Department of Justice to really phase private prisons out. And I think it's really interesting that we're talking about this because a huge test is going to be coming for the Biden administration tomorrow when we have the second hearing of HR40. Now, that is a bill to essentially create and fund a commission to study reparations for black Americans.

So that would be a very good test for the administration to see if they are going to advance and throw their weight and their support behind to reparations. This is something that we heard a lot of Democratic candidates talking about on the debate stages in the run up to the presidential election. So it'll be interesting to see how the Biden-Harris administration tackles this one piece of legislation that is incredibly controversial.

ADAM SHAPIRO: OK, Kristin, don't go anywhere. We want you to stay here. And let's bring in Marc Morial. He is the president of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans. Thank you for joining us. Let's keep this simple, because we heard at the beginning of Kristin's report the statement that Joe Biden, the president, did say which is I've got your back.

In the United States, are we hearing from people who represent the black community? And does he have their back? Are they saying yes? So far so good?

MARC MORIAL: So I am always reluctant to judge after only 30 days. 30 days in the course of a four-year administration is an important period of time. But right now, key cabinet officers who will be essential to executing the agenda we'd like to see and justice at HUD and labor have not yet been confirmed.

And so the early steps that have been taken in a 30-day period on, if you will, racial justice I think are as important as any steps taken by any president in modern history to try to reverse-- at least, begin to reverse the substantial damage that the Trump administration has done.

One executive order that hasn't gotten as much attention is the executive order that requires every single department within the next 200 days to identify disparities in policies, procedures, and programs, and report back, if you will, to the White House. And I think that's important because it will create a more detailed roadmap on how you purge the bureaucracy of the United States government from the longstanding after-effects of slavery and segregation and how you really began to make progress when it comes to racial justice.

So I think that there have been some important steps. I've paid close attention to the appointments because I think in an administration long-term, I think personnel decisions are very important to what the policies ultimately are and how they are followed through on.

And Marcia Fudge, I give high marks to. Susan Rice, of course. I give high marks to Cedric Richmond, high marks to Lloyd Austin, high marks too, for example. And there are many, many others. But I can't, to be candid, offer a meaningful assessment 30 days in except to say that the early months I think are decisive.

KRISTIN MYERS: Right, so Mark, I want to broaden this out just a little bit because the president, the executive branch, is not the law-making branch. That's really left up to Congress. I'm wondering what moves do you think that Biden-- or what policy moves should the Biden administration be supporting that you would like to see coming out of Congress?

MARC MORIAL: So initially, we want to see this COVID bill passed. This COVID bill is important to black and brown people. Enhanced unemployment. Checks that will go to probably 2/3 of all black families in the United States, support for cities.

Many cities are run by black and brown Democratic elected officials today in America. We want to see COVID pass. We want to see a broad economic infrastructure pass. We want to see the George Floyd Justice and Policing Bill pass not only through the House but through the Senate and get the president's, if you will, signature.

Those are to name a few. We want to see a Voting Rights Act Advancement Bill HR4 be adopted because we've got to take aggressive steps to end this mass, if you will, movement to suppress the vote and repress people's right to participate in democracy.

So there are a number of things we want to see through a closely divided Congress in the United States. But I think you're going to hear the voices of activist, civil rights leaders, people across the board embrace the agenda that I just outlined. That's the legislative agenda that I think is so important for this year.

SEANA SMITH: Mark, you mentioned Marcia Fudge earlier. I want to play a recent comment that we've gotten from her, the HUD nominee, Marcia Fudge. Let's listen to what she had to say when she was defining equality versus equity.

MARCIA FUDGE: Where most people who are not-- that don't look like me have options that I do not have. So just to say to treat us all the same is not the same. Equity means making the playing field level. Sometimes it's not level if you just say let's just treat everybody same.

SEANA SMITH: Mark, I'd love just to get your comments on that and then also just what we've heard from the Biden administration taking it a step further from Kristen's question. We got the news out today that the Biden administration's extending the eviction and foreclosure moratoriums into at least June. Is that enough? Or does more need to be done on that front?

MARC MORIAL: I think more may need to be done. But an extension through June, I think these extensions tend to take place in increments. And an extension through June, I think we get a further extension if it was needed and necessary. And in all likelihood, it will.

Here's the most important thing about equity. Equity refers to systematic change-- change in the systems-- the systems of government, the systems of institution, the baked in racial, if you will, exclusion and discrimination. And equity is sometimes a difficult concept for people to embrace or get their collective arms around.

But it is an essential element as we understand that now, 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when we had a broad commitment to equality and equal treatment, it has not necessarily yielded an America which is indeed equal, because we've got to deal with systematic change. And that systematic change, I think, can take place with presidential leadership. And presidential leadership can begin to change at the departments of government.

And this is, perhaps, the best analogy I would use. If you and I both each had a glass of water-- mine was half full and yours was a third full-- and we each were given a cup of water, I could say I just gave each of you an equal cup of water. But my glass has more water than your glass. And it will always have more water than your glass, unless I figure out a way to give your glass additional water to make up for the long-standing differences. That's what equity means.

SEANA SMITH: Marc Morial, it's always great to have you on Yahoo Finance. We really appreciate you taking the time. We have so much more that we like to talk to you about. So we're looking forward to having you back soon. Again, Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League and also former mayor of New Orleans. Our thanks to you and our Thanks to Kristin Myers as well.