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Federal Action and Racial Discrimination

United States Report on Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,
  Initial Country Report (Sept, 2000). 

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Vernellia R. Randall
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The President has executive authority to direct the activities of federal agencies in furtherance of the Constitution and laws of the United States. In exercise of this authority, the President has issued executive orders that prohibit discrimination in federal programs and that encourage diversity in the federal workplace to the extent that such actions are consistent with federal law. For example:


  • Executive Order 11246, signed on September 24, 1965, prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment, and requires that they undertake affirmative action to ensure equal employment opportunity without regard to race, color, sex, religion or national origin. Generally, all contractors and subcontractors holding non-exempt federal and federally assisted contracts and subcontracts worth more than $10,000 must comply with this Order.


  • To ensure that federal funding agencies effectively and consistently enforce their responsibilities for ensuring their recipients do not discriminate, in 1980 President Carter issued Executive Order 12250. Among other things, this order delegates to the Attorney General the President's authority to approve regulations under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin by recipients of federal financial assistance). In addition, the Executive Order charges the Attorney General with leadership to provide for the consistent and effective implementation of various laws prohibiting discriminatory practices in federal programs and programs receiving federal financial assistance.


  • On January 17, 1994, in Executive Order 12892, President Clinton introduced new Fair Housing initiatives in federal programs to ensure that all federal policies and programs across all agencies support the fair housing and equal opportunity goals of the Fair Housing Act. The purpose of this order was to remove all barriers to housing for lower income and minority Americans. The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and the Attorney General, the officials with primary responsibility for the enforcement of federal fair housing laws, were assigned the task of developing and coordinating measures to carry out the purposes of the Order. In addition, the Order established an advisory council entitled the "President's Fair Housing and Urban Development Council" chaired by the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to review the design and delivery of federal programs and activities and ensure that they support a coordinated strategy to affirmatively further fair housing.


  • On February 11, 1994, in Executive Order 12898, President Clinton directed every federal agency to identify and consider adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority and low-income populations. The Order also established a working group on environmental justice comprising the heads of the major executive agencies. The working group's task was to coordinate, provide guidance and serve as a clearinghouse for the Federal agencies on their environmental justice strategies.


  • On May 24, 1996, Executive Order 13007 was issued, calling upon federal agencies to accommodate access to and ceremonial use of Indian sacred sites by Indian religious practitioners and to avoid adversely affecting the physical integrity of such sacred sites.


  • Executive Order 13021, issued on October 21, 1996, calls upon the Federal government to ensure that tribal colleges and universities are more fully recognized as accredited institutions, have access to the opportunities afforded other institutions and have federal resources committed to them on a continuing basis. The order also, among other objectives, calls on the Federal government to promote access to high quality education opportunity for economically disadvantaged students and the preservation and revitalization of American Indian and Alaska Native languages and cultural traditions.


  • On August 6, 1998, President Clinton issued Executive Order 13096 on American Indian and Alaska Native Education affirming the political and legal relationship of the Federal government with tribal governments and recognizing the educational and culturally related academic needs of American Indians and Alaska Native students. This Order established six goals, consistent with tribal traditions and cultures, for improving educational achievement and academic progress for American Indians and Alaska Natives. In order to achieve these goals, the Order also established, among other initiatives, an interagency task force, which was tasked with developing a comprehensive interagency plan, research agenda and policy for improving American Indian and Alaska Native educational achievement and an interagency resource guide on federal education-related programs.


  • Executive Order 13084, Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments, was issued on May 14, 1998, requiring federal agencies to consult with tribes when developing regulatory practices, policies, or regulations that significantly affect tribal interests. Among other things, consultation with tribes helps to ensure that federal policymakers account for the often unique interests and perspectives of tribes and their members. By doing so, it will help avoid developing policies that might discriminate against Native American interests. In addition, by affirming the Federal government's commitment to Indian tribal rights, including treaty hunting and fishing rights, the Executive Order serves an educational function that may, in turn, lessen racial tensions that sometimes confront tribal members as they seek to exercise those rights.


  • Executive Order 13125 was signed by President Clinton on June 7, 1999 to improve the quality of life of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) through increased participation in federal programs where they are under-served. The Executive Order establishes the President's Advisory Commission on AAPIs and the White House Initiative on AAPIs. It mandates the development of an integrated federal plan to respond to the needs of this population.


  • On June 9, 1999, President Clinton issued an Executive Memorandum requiring that the Departments of Justice, Treasury and Interior design and implement systems for collecting data by race, ethnicity, and gender relating to certain actions taken by law enforcement agents employed by these Departments. The purpose of this data collection effort is to allow the Federal government to determine whether any of its law enforcement agencies is engaged in so-called "racial profiling."


Federal agencies also have authority to adopt regulations to implement the programs they are charged with administering. In many cases, these regulations include provisions prohibiting discrimination by government agents and individuals and entities who receive services from the agency. For example, all federal assistance agencies have regulations prohibiting race discrimination by recipients of their assistance. A comprehensive listing of these regulations can be found on the web site of the Coordination and Review Section of the Civil Rights Division found at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/cor.

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Constitutional Provisions ] Federal Legislation ] [ Federal Action and Racial Discrimination ] State Anti-Discrimination Measures ]
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Parent Level:
Introduction ] General Report ] Legal Prohibition ] U.S. Reservations, Understandings and Declarations ] Compliance with Specific Articles ] Article 1 - Racial Discrimination ] Article 2 ] Art 3 Condemn Racial Segregation and Apartheid ] Article 4 Eliminate Incitements or Acts of Discrimination ] Article 5 Equality Under the Law ] Article 6 Assure Effective Protection and Remedies ] Article 7 Adopt Measures ] Conclusion ]
[Race and Racial Groups] [Citizenship Rights]  [Justice and Race] [Patterns of Basic Needs] [Intersectionality Issues] [Human Rights]

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Thanks to Derrick Bell and his pioneer work: 
Race, Racism and American Law