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Treasury Dept. gets first counselor for racial equity with goal to create new committee, report

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The Treasury Department has appointed its first counselor for “racial equity,” according to reports, though it’s not clear what need the post fills or the justification for creating it.

According to a press release from the department, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced that Janis Bowdler would become the agency’s first equity counselor in which she will reportedly coordinate attempts to promote “racial equity.”

“Ms. Bowdler will be charged with coordinating Treasury’s efforts to advance racial equity including engaging with diverse communities throughout the country and to identify and mitigate barriers to accessing benefits and opportunities with the Department,” the release states.

“I have spent my entire career working in solidarity with Black, Latinx, AAPI, Native communities, and other communities of color to dismantle the structural and institutional racism that perpetuates the racial wealth divide,” added Bowdler.

“Addressing racial and gender disparities and giving underserved communities greater access to opportunities creates more broadly shared prosperity for all. Thank you to Secretary Yellen for entrusting me with this position to help contribute to the Biden Administration’s commitment to centering racial equity in its work,” she said.

In a blog post, Wally Adeyemo, Treasury’s deputy secretary, noted that in her new role Bowdler “will coordinate and lead efforts across the department to inform our decisions with a focus on racial equity and work to ensure our programs create opportunity in communities of color.”

Adeyemo went on to note that one of Bowdler’s objectives will be to establish a Racial Equity Advisory Committee, whose members will focus on priorities that do not seem to have clearly defined objectives or what measure will be used to gauge progress and achievement.

“The creation of this committee will provide the Department’s leadership with advice and expert counsel focused on advancing equity for communities that have historically been left behind. Through the membership of the Committee, the Department will benefit from the perspectives and input from a range of individuals, including academics, researchers, industry leaders, community-based leaders and advocates, philanthropists, and others,” Adeyemo wrote.

“We understood that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated systemic inequities in communities of color and low-income communities that existed long before this crisis,” Adeyemo noted without providing examples or definitions for his claims.

“As a result, we worked to ensure that the Office of Recovery Programs made equity a foundational priority in the delivery of its programs to both address urgent needs and make lasting investments to mitigate these long-term disparities,” his blog post continued.

“This approach has improved the circumstances of vulnerable households across the country and created meaningful opportunities for small businesses, cities, and states across the country.”

On his first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order meant to “advance racial equity” throughout the federal government.

The order states that his administration’s policy “should pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality,” the order states.

“Affirmatively advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice, and equal opportunity is the responsibility of the whole of our Government.  Because advancing equity requires a systematic approach to embedding fairness in decision-making processes, executive departments and agencies (agencies) must recognize and work to redress inequities in their policies and programs that serve as barriers to equal opportunity,” the order added.

Critics have blasted the order as pointedly anti-white and racist, citing examples including the Agriculture Department’s singling out denying COVID-19 aid to white farmers in deference to farmers of color, a policy that was ripped as unconstitutional in federal court.

Jon Dougherty

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