There is a lot of talk lately about the diversity, or lack of it, in President Barack Obama’s picks for his second term cabinet.
Leaving aside the briefly floated idea of tapping U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for secretary of state, the majority of Obama’s picks so far for important cabinet posts have been white men. Several other women’s names have floated to the top, but other than last week’s choice of B. Todd Jones, former Minnesota U.S. attorney, to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, there has been a dearth of African Americans nominated for posts. In fact, you can almost discount Jones, since he has been acting director of the ATF since 2011.
White men have already been named to replace Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. Lisa Jackson, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator and first African-American woman to hold that position, and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, a Latina, are also leaving the White House.
White House chief of staff and former budget director Jack Lew will succeed Geithner at Treasury; Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough will take Lew’s chief of staff post. Homeland security advisor John Brennan will replace Gen. David Petraeus as CIA director, and former senator Chuck Hagel, will serve as Secretary of Defense, provided he makes it though a tough confirmation hearing.
But where are all the Black faces?
Black America, which can claim a significant role in the president’s re-election — having voted for Obama in numbers well north of 90 percent — is starting to feel left out of the process, and perhaps rightly so.
Perhaps hearing the grumbling, and feeling the sting, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett predicted more minorities and women would be tapped for positions in the president’s Cabinet.
“His Cabinet, when he’s finished — and he's far from finished — will have diversity, including women, including people of color,” said Jarrett in an interview with CNN.
Obama even defended himself on that front, advising critics to wait and see, saying that he was “proud that in the first four years, we had as diverse, if not a more diverse, White House and a Cabinet than any in history.”
We share the frustration at having watched as the president assembled an inner circle of white guys. But we’re also willing to take him at his word, and will closely watch his upcoming appointments to monitor his own commitment to diversity in the workplace.