The lack of diversity in the Obama Administration
by: Tim Bame
As we mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech later this year, King’s challenge that individuals should be judged “Not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” has increasingly become a political issue in terms of collective action. While collective action in university admissions will be ruled on by the Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas later this year, the issue of a form of collective action in the nomination process of new Obama Administration officials is drawing criticism from both the left and the right.
In light of Obama’s historic election four years ago, many Americans hoped that this would end the lack of diversity in the highest levels of our government. The long held belief that our country is run by white men is still strong among a large amount of people, especially those on the left. In response, President Obama went out and nominated what he described as the most diverse administration in our nation’s history. The problem now is that many of these nominees are leaving as the second Obama term begins. Many of these new replacements are white men. For instance, John Kerry is replacing Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, Jack Lew will be the Secretary of the Treasury, and Chuck Hagel will be the Secretary of Defense.
What makes this issue so unique is that the president is being criticized by both sides of the aisle. Democrats are criticizing him for the lack of diversity and Republicans are criticizing him because they see it as another example of him not keeping his word. As the Republicans see it, these nominations are a contradiction of his 2004 keynote address at Democratic National Convention where he said, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America—there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America—there’s the United States of America
During the campaign, Mitt Romney was vilified in the media for his “Binders full of women” comment in one of the debates. He was making the point that while he was governor of Massachusetts he took measures to nominate qualified women to positions in his administration. Romney was vilified in the media for making this statement. Obama is praised for making statements about the importance of diversity. The truth is that Obama doesn’t practice what he preaches.
The positive of Obama not appointing candidates based on minority race status alone is that it is the right thing. If this country has truly gotten away from the past of racial and sexual inequality, then why is it such a big deal that a candidate for a position is selected solely based on merit and not identity? The fact is that these high positions in government are too important to be held by someone under-qualified compared to another individual only because that person is a woman and/or a racial minority. For instance, Susan Rice was widely considered to be President Obama’s first choice for the Secretary of State position. The outrage of Democrats toward Republican reservations about the potential nomination shows how out of touch they really are. They lied to the American public by saying the Benghazi attack was caused by outrage over a YouTube video that hardly anyone had ever seen. They instead alleged it was caused by sexism and racism by the Republicans. The Democrats believed that the racist Republicans just couldn’t stomach a successful black woman holding such an important position. They seem to forget that another black woman, Condoleezza Rice, held the post of Secretary of State under the Bush administration.
If this country has truly recovered from the racial and sexual injustices of the past, why does it matter whether our public officials, our congressmen, our senators, or even our president, are male or female, black, white, or Latino? The real truth is, it doesn’t. Some minorities don’t want equality, they want preferential treatment. Whether the best candidate for a job is a black woman, a Latino woman, or a white man, we owe it to ourselves to have the best person possible holding that position. Our challenges are far too great to focus on ultimately meaningless superficialities. Therefore, while I wish you would take a more honest public position, I applaud you Mr. President for nominating the people you feel are the most qualified to do their job regardless of their race and gender. Perhaps finally, we are getting closer to fulfilling Dr. King’s real dream.