by J. Pharoah Doss, For New Pittsburgh Courier
President-elect Joe Biden told the American people, “My administration’s going to look like America, not just my staff, the administration from the vice president straight down through cabinet members to major players within the White House and the courts.”
That sounds good, but what’s accomplished by having an administration that looks like America?
The President-elect’s statement reinforced a previous pledge—to have an unrelenting commitment to diversity. Diversity is multifaceted, but Biden was referring to Title VII diversity. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. (Today the diversity doctrine includes other groups.) However, prohibiting discrimination was the easy part. Integrating, or including the formerly excluded, without government fiat was the difficulty.
Diversity became the doctrine for voluntary inclusion.
During the last three decades of the 20th century, experts have described to American institutions the benefits of diversity and American institutions have been diversifying rapidly. By the 21st century, American institutions were competing and giving out awards for ingenuity and leadership in diversity. Both the Obama and George W. Bush presidential administrations were respectively considered the most diverse in American history.
That’s why Biden’s “unrelenting” commitment to diversity sounds overdramatic.
However, Biden also pledged his administration would finally “root out systemic racism” in the United States. According to the diversity doctrine, systemic racism exists because political administrations and corporate boardrooms didn’t look like America, and diversifying the positions of power was a preemptive strike against the racism that prevailed post-Jim Crow.
Experts theorized diverse administrations and boardrooms would detect and eliminate the unconscious bias that materialized into systemic racism.
However, during Biden’s second vice-presidential term, a riot erupted in Baltimore after a Black man, Freddie Gray, died in police custody. Two news headlines summarized the consensus:
—Baltimore exposes America’s systemic racism, poverty, and inequality
—Baltimore riots: Locals say, unrest is response to systemic racism
According to the diversity doctrine, the second headline makes no sense. By the time of Gray’s death Baltimore was on its fourth Black mayor—two men, two women—and three were also Baltimore City Council presidents. During the time of Gray’s death Baltimore’s police chief was Black. Baltimore’s police force had 2,745 active-duty police officers and 1,445—more than half—were Black, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American, plus four of their top six commanders were Black or Hispanic.
Of the six officers charged with Gray’s death, three were Black; two men and one woman. The judge that presided over the trial of the officers was a Black man and the state prosecutor was a Black woman, plus there were five Black women and three Black men on the jury.
The people in charge of Baltimore looked like the people of Baltimore. Yet the not guilty verdict for the officers involved in Gray’s death was, and still is, cited as an example of systemic racism. It’s never considered a fair and impartial proceeding conducted by a diverse system.
One news headline answered: Black cops, Black mayors, didn’t save Baltimore from police abuse—The limits of diversity.
But the “experts” in systemic racism went further and theorized any system that disproportionately produced negative outcomes for minorities was racist by result, regardless of the racial make-up of its administrators.
These “experts” not only rendered the diversity doctrine antiquated, they also claimed diversity had no practical utility in the first place.
Therefore, Biden’s “unrelenting commitment” to create an administration that looks like America, in an effort to finally root out systemic racism, proves an ancient political adage: You can’t teach an old senator new tricks.