During the 2020 presidential election cycle, Joe Biden made a commitment to protect and propel the interests of the African American community on unprecedented levels.
On Thursday, President-elect Biden told CNN’s Jake Tapper “I’m going to keep my commitment that the administration, both in the White House and outside in the cabinet, is going to look like the country.”
This commitment comes after collective unrest held by minority communities over a demonstrated lack of diversity in the announced cabinet positions — despite his firm commitment to prioritize diversity.
America continues to face unrivaled hardship with over 270,000 deaths and an economy that is debilitated. The rapidly deteriorating health and economy of the American people and the country at large will likely affect minorities far more than any other demographic — as a result the need for diversity in cabinet level positions is consequential.
On November 11th, the Biden-Harris Presidential Transition team announced Ronald Klain as White House Chief of Staff via twitter. This marked the beginning of a long road to fill top positions in the administration. As it stands, the most important departments are Defense, Treasury and State. As a result, these tend to be the most influential and coveted positions in the White House.
For the State Department ,with regard to national security and foreign policy, President-elect Biden announced the following people to represent the United States on the global stage:
The credentials of all the selected officials remains evident but many competing interest groups and organizations continue to express dissatisfaction with the lack of representation in cabinet picks.
Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Karen Bass responded to Biden’s cabinet on CNN “we certainly hope to be seeing African Americans in secretary-level positions” she said.
NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson echoed her sentiments noting “If you look at the transition team, there is not a single civil rights organization engaged on any of the review committees.”
To President Johnson’s point, the State Department is most influential with respect to the presidency because of its representation on the global stage. These men and women will be charged with representing America and its values in international settings. Unfortunately, the appointments for the State Department are not reflective of the budding demographic make-up within the United States. And therefore fall short of representing the entirety of the American people.
Another top cabinet office was announced on Monday, stirring up more controversy. Former Chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen was announced as a nominee for Secretary of the Treasury. Under her, Biden has nominated two Black leaders to help run the Treasury Department.
While Biden integrated a historic number of Black experts into his top-level cabinet positions, they are not leading any of them. The current political climate will take tremendous experience, compassion and innovation. The nominees thus far are undeniably distinguished members of their area of expertise — so there is reassurance that they will be experienced enough for the job. On the other hand, compassion and innovation stem from lived experiences and personal connection.
With unemployment rising and divide eroding at the fabric of our nation, Biden is charged with nominating and selecting people who understand the issues facing our nation in acute ways. Not only from a learned perspective, but from a lived perspective.
Still, hundreds of positions remain unfilled, all of which have potential to diversify the Biden Administration. However, if nothing is done about the lack of Black leadership in the most recent nominations, unrest will continue within the community that proved most beneficial to Biden — Black people. Potentially to his demise, President-elect Biden ran under a platform that was progressive and inclusive — to a point that invigorated often overlooked voting blocs.
Joe Biden has a tall order to fill considering his moderate roots in politics and the now polarized nation. Considering the influence Black leaders and voters played in his election he surely cannot expect that a Black Vice President will suffice for an often unheard minority community.
Mondaire Jones, newly elected Democratic representative from Rockland County and one of the first openly gay Black males to serve Congress expressed his sentiments on Biden’s Cabinet picks “I have only weighed in on the issue of Rahm Emanuel because I view that to be a red line and a major slap in the face to the Black community that elected Joe Biden to the White House. I’ve really wanted to be patient and respectful of that process, and to the extent that I have recommendations, to communicate those through private channels — and that’s, I think, what you’ll continue to see from me unless there are other red lines that I feel are on on the verge of being crossed.”
Speculation aside, if Black leaders agree with Mondaire Jones, the coming months of cabinet nominees will prove refreshing or infuriating for the Black community.