President-elect Joe Biden promised Friday that there will be “significant diversity” in his Cabinet as he faces criticism from minority groups who are not satisfied with his choices so far.
“I promise you, it’ll be the single-most diverse Cabinet based on race, colour, based on gender, that’s ever existed in the United States of America,” Biden said Friday in Wilmington, Delaware, following remarks on jobs and the economy.
Black and Latino leaders have raised concerns that the Cabinet nominees Biden has revealed so far are not diverse enough, especially in the top key positions.
South Carolina US Representative Jim Clyburn, the top-ranking African American in the US House who is credited with helping Biden win his state during the Democratic primaries, said he is willing to be patient, but he is also not happy at the moment.
“I want to see where the process leads to, what it produces,” Clyburn told The Hill newspaper. “But so far, it’s not good.”
But to leaders like NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, it is not only about the diversity of the individuals, but it is more about what Biden’s administration will stand for.
“We do believe this administration will be the most diverse administration,” Johnson said in an interview with NBC News Friday. “Our concern is less about people than it is priorities.”
Biden has officially announced eight of his 23 Cabinet positions and of those 8, there are five women, including Janet Yellen, who would be the first female treasury secretary in US history. Included in those eight are two Black women, Linda Thomas-Greenfield for US ambassador to the United Nations, and Cecelia Rouse to be chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, as well as Neera Tanden, who is of Indian descent, to be Biden’s budget chief. Alejandro Mayorkas, a Latino, is Biden’s choice to be secretary of homeland security.
Despite the inclusion of Mayorkas, Latino leaders are upset about the Biden team’s handling of New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, who was long rumoured to be a top contender to be his health and human services (HHS) secretary, but was offered the lower-profile interior secretary slot, which she turned down.
A group of Latino legislators signed a letter this week, first reported by Axios, urging Biden to choose Grisham, who is of Mexican descent, as HHS secretary.
Black and Latino leaders are hoping Biden chooses a person of colour for one of the two remaining four top Cabinet slots: Departments of Defense or Justice. Biden has already named his choices for the other two, Treasury and State.
“A true way for Biden to make history would be to nominate a person of colour for one or more of those ‘Big Four’ positions, and now they’re down to just two,” said Janet Murguia, the president of UnidosUS told Politico this week. “So there will be enormous scrutiny from both the Black and Latino community for the remaining two jobs — DoD and Justice — and rightfully so.”
“The president-elect certainly understands and hears and welcomes the voices that are pushing him on diversity. That is how we make progress in this country,” said Kate Bedingfield, who was named as Biden’s White House communications director this, during a conference call with reporters on Friday.