Donald Trump is keeping his promise to take us back to an earlier America.
His cabinet picks, now complete, are from a time machine set to somewhere around 1970: Overwhelmingly white, male, older and very, very rich.
Of 15 formal slots, all but two are white, and all but two are men. With so few women and minorities, this is the least diverse of any cabinet slate since Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1981. And for the first time since 1989, there is not a single Latinx selection.
The outliers include secretary of Housing and Urban Development-designate Ben Carson, an African American man, and secretary of Transportation-designate Elaine Chao, an Asian American woman. Another woman, Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for Department of Education, is white.
In a country that’s getting blacker and browner all the time—which defines the business case for diversity in governance—this development is deeply alarming. But it is also, in spirit and practice, a great unwinding of what was could have been a crowning achievement of the Obama administration. By the last two years of his term, Obama had managed to create the most diverse federal bureaucracy in history; being careful to highlight and include experts from the disability and LGBT communities as well.
From a Washington Post report in 2015:
University of California at Berkeley law school professor Anne Joseph O’Connell has compiled a database of all government appointees confirmed by the Senate to more than 80 important policy positions between January 1977 and August 2015. O’Connell said that her research reveals that Obama has placed women and minorities in 53.5 percent of those posts. His predecessor, President George W. Bush, by contrast, installed women and minorities in 25.6 percent, while President Clinton’s number was 37.5 percent.
It was part of the plan from the beginning. Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Obama told raceAhead last May, “I was the co-chair of his transition team, and his direction to us was to ensure that his administration reflected the diversity of this country.” But, particularly in the middle years of his tenure, critics were deeply disappointed by his apparent lack of progress.
By 2015, things had changed, and optimistic experts believed that the benefits of diversity would have a long-term, transformational effect on the nation. “We have now settled the fact that diversity is a permanent part of the federal government,” Robert Raben, a Democratic consultant who works on diversity issues, told the Washington Post.
What once seemed settled, now feels hopelessly naïve. Trump doesn’t seem to have a single binder that doesn’t have a friend or contributor’s name in it. There’s no mandate from the top, no commitment to the exchange of ideas, and no interest in viewpoints from alternate perspectives. From their skin tone, to their gender, to their wealth, Trump’s appointees tend to look a lot like, well, Donald Trump.
The fight for diversity in leadership is often hard and never finished. But its duration also means that no change, even one that comes with a rousing new slogan and bright red hat, is permanent.
|Megan Smith, America’s first CTO doubles down on diversity in tech|
|Smith and her colleague Alex Macgillivray, sat down with Dan Primack to debrief on their experiences as part of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology. It’s a must read, particularly if you don’t believe government can do important things. But she also dropped some tantalizing hints of her future direction. “I now have much more impatience with the lack of diversity in tech, whether that be geo, race, or gender,” she says. “We’ll be much better served if tech and other government teams become more diverse, because all of the research shows that diverse teams make better decisions.”|
|U.S. sues Oracle for paying white men more than other people|
|The U.S. Department of Labor has filed suit against Oracle, saying that the tech giant has a “systemic practice” of paying white men more than non-white men or women with the same job titles. The suit also says there is evidence that the company discriminates against non-Asian job applicants. In a statement, the company called the lawsuit “politically motivated, based on false allegations and wholly without merit.”|
|New York Times|
|An Arizona reservation was poisoned by the federal government for a decade and nobody knew|
|Between 1961 and 1972, the federal government began efforts to protect the sparse watershed of the growing city of Phoenix by eliminating water-sucking vegetation from neighboring land. The plan: to drop chemical herbicide similar to Agent Orange from planes. The target area happened to be an Apache reservation of 10,000 people, one of the poorest Native American communities in the country. This month, the EPA is sending federal investigators to find out exactly what was sprayed and what the effects may be. I tip my hat to reporter Nigel Duara who stumbled upon, and deeply reported this overlooked horror.|
|Los Angeles Times|
|JPMorgan Chase agrees to a $55 million discrimination settlement|
|JPMorgan Chase agreed to settle a U.S. Justice Department lawsuit accusing it of allowing mortgage brokers to charge minority borrowers more for home loans. The suit claimed that during the years 2006 and 2009, the company showed “reckless disregard” for the rights of at least 53,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers, forcing them to pay tens of millions more in mortgage costs than white borrowers with identical credit profiles. The Justice Department has been pursuing a number of similar cases; since 2010 to 2014, the agency’s Civil Rights Division received more than $1.4 billion for suits related to fair housing laws.|
The Woke Leader
|Jamilah Lemieux will be sitting out the women’s march in Washington|
|Writer Jamilah Lemieux has never been known to mince words. In this heartfelt piece, she explores the deep divide between white women and women of color, specifically when it comes to progressive priorities. “Will the Women’s March on Washington be a space filled primarily with participants who believe that black lives matter?” she asks. “It’s time for white women to come together and tell the world how their crimes against black women, black men and black children have been no less devastating than the ones committed by their male counterparts.”|
|On the many ways to be Chinese|
|Writer Rosalie Chen begins her essay with a lengthy explanation of her complicated lineage. She was born in the U.S., but her father is Chinoy, Chinese by way of the Phillipines, and her mother is from Taiwan, but from two ethnic minority subcultures, one of which is losing its language and culture to the march of time. “I wish I could say that I knew Hakka or Fukken or Taiwanese or Tagalog. But I don’t. And sadly, these languages are being erased,” she says. Her quest to unpack her identity inspired her to study in China. At times she became a cultural oddity. “Maybe because of my Taiwanese accent, or maybe because I was with my American friends, or maybe because of my mannerisms, strangers would ask me where I’m from,” she said. Her answer created more questions for everyone, including herself.|
|A curator looks to heal the divide between Haiti and the Dominican Republic|
|Tensions between the Dominican Republic and Haiti have been simmering and erupting for centuries, the modern version of the conflict—which includes trade and immigration battles—continues to deeply divide the small island. Yelaine Rodriguez, a talented fashion designer who explores her Dominican identity in her work, has been curating a provocative art installation series called La Lucha that brings Haitian and Dominican artists together to explore those tensions through art and cross-cultural discussion. The series has earned protests from Dominican nationalists, which she sees as a good sign that she’s hitting the right nerves.|