By Rosetta Miller Perry
President-elect Joe Biden’s first wave of candidates for Cabinet and Cabinet-level positions are generally getting raves from the mainstream press for diversity and inclusion. Sunday night he announced the appointment of an all-women Communications staff. But so far there’s been a disturbing absence of Black male candidates for top-level, highly visible, powerful positions.
A prime example of the Biden campaign recognizing the importance of having a Latino male presence was the selection of Alejandro Mayorkas to head the Department of Homeland Security. He’d be the first Latino in that position, and his appointment is being hailed in the Latino press as groundbreaking.
By comparison, the president-elect tapped Cedric Richmond to serve as an adviser and the director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Richmond is the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. But the distinction is the pick of Mayorkas and that of Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be UN Ambassador got major news coverage and attention, and are being rightly highlighted as significant for young Latino boys and Black girls to see as role models. Unless you’re an avid news reader or plugged into political insider publications, you might not even have known about the Richmond position.
To put it more bluntly and simply, it’s time for Black men to start getting some of these coveted power positions in government, both at the national level and state level. Far too many administrations, be they mayoral, governor, or presidential, seem to think diversity and inclusion in the Black community only mean targeting Black women for key positions and assigning to Black men secondary or less notable and recognizable slots.
The Tribune understands there are more than 4,000 presidential appointments to be made, and only 1,000 have to be confirmed by the Senate. Biden is in a position to put a lot of Blacks in high-level positions, and ensure there is access to power and fairness in government, no matter how much opposition he faces from a potentially Republican-controlled Senate.
Yes, the empowerment of women in government is vital. The track record of this nation in regards to discrimination against women in business and employment is shameful, and by no means does the Tribune oppose hiring highly qualified Black women to fill key positions and staffing roles. However, we wonder why it must always be an either-or situation, and why can’t the appointments be more even? Why isn’t hiring Black men equally as important and vital as hiring Black women?
So far it seems there’s no real commitment on the part of the Biden campaign to seek out Black men for the most important positions in his cabinet. We hope this doesn’t prove the case, and that’s he not following the lead we see too often at the state and local level, where they seem unwilling, unable, or both, to even consider, let alone select or appoint, Black men to critical leadership positions.
Even Donald Trump, as incompetent and corrupt as his administration tended to be, made certain to include Dr. Ben Carson as one of his first cabinet picks. Whether Carson should have been tabbed as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development or not, at least Trump acknowledged that a Black man could serve in a major power position. There are a lot more competent and qualified Black males all across this nation who could easily fill cabinet positions, and we feel it’s time for the Biden administration to start finding and appointing them.
When President Barack Obama tapped Eric Holder to be the first Black U.S, Attorney General it was a pivotal day for Black attorneys, both men, and women. Subsequently, Loretta Lynch followed him as the first Black women Attorney General, and her appointment was equally historic and vital. The difference was in these situations Black men weren’t ignored or not considered in the overall process.
The day when the argument could credibly be made that there aren’t many qualified Black males available is long gone. Now it’s simply a question of whether folks in power, whether it’s Joe Biden, a state governor or a city mayor, has the desire and courage to appoint them.
We will be watching closely this week as more key appointments are announced. The Tribune strongly advises the Biden transition team to begin appointing more Black men to not just advisory and support positions, but highly visible, critical power staff roles. The Black community needs to see BOTH men and women in charge.