Biden said the killing of George Floyd "opened the eyes of millions of Americans and millions of people all over the world" to the need for justice

US President Joe Biden
Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Tuesday issued a series of executive orders aimed at addressing racial inequity in federal policy.

"We have never fully lived up to the founding principles of this nation, to state the obvious, that all people are created equal and have a right to be treated equally throughout their lives," he said during the signing.

The president referenced the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last summer and the subsequent protests against police brutality that rippled across the world as "a turning point in this country's attitude toward racial justice."

Floyd was suffocated last May after a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, placed his knee on firmly on the back of his neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd was handcuffed and lying on his stomach next to a Minneapolis patrol car.

george floyd memorial in minneapolis
Credit: Getty

"Those 8 minutes and 46 seconds that took George Floyd's life opened the eyes of millions of Americans and millions of people all over the world," Biden said. "It was the knee on the neck of justice, and it wouldn't be forgotten."

Biden recalled meeting Floyd's family and speaking with his 6-year-old daughter, Gianna, who he said told him, "Daddy changed the world."

"And I believe she is right, not because this kind of injustice stopped -- it clearly hasn't -- but because the ground has shifted ... because it laid the groundwork for progress," he said.

BLM weekend protests
Demonstrators stage a protest on June 14 after an Atlanta police officer shot and killed Rayshard Brooks at a Wendy's drive-thru on June 12
| Credit: Ben Hendren/Anadolu Agency via Getty

As a result, the president signed an executive order calling for the Department of Justice to end the renewal of contracts with private prisons, as well as a presidential memorandum directing the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to redress the federal government's history of discriminatory practices in housing policy.

He also urged Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which seeks to restore key components of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

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Biden said he's also asked the Department of Health and Human Services to address racial inequity in health care — citing the COVID-19 pandemic as a factor in further illuminating the disparities in care that communities of color receive.

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"The devastation in communities of color has been nothing short of stunning," the president said. "Black and Latino Americans are dying of COVID-19 at rates nearly three times that of white Americans."

He also raised concerns about xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders that has surged during the pandemic, calling it "unacceptable and un-American," and added that he has asked federal agencies to work with these communities to combat it.