During his acceptance speech, President-elect Joe Biden spoke directly to Black Americans, and that meant something.
“The African-American community stood up again for me. You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours,” Biden said.
That was as good as an IOU, and key African-American leaders are ready to cash in on that promise. Less than month after he was elected, the leaders of at least seven civil rights organizations have already openly expressed their concerns and asked for private meetings with Biden, to make sure he hears their concerns.
What the leaders are upset about is the number of Black Americans Biden has made so far to his cabinet. They’re concerned White nominees have so far dominated the cabinet and they want him to appoint Black nominees to the remaining high-profile cabinet posts.
So far, Biden has announced one of the most diverse sets of appointments ever, but he has reserved the “marquee” slots for White candidates. Of the “Big Four” cabinet posts – Treasury, State, Justice and Defense – Whites have already been selected for two of them, Secretary of State and Treasurer.
Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP, is among the civil rights officials who said he’s reached out to speak personally with Biden so that he could express his concerns.
“We have not had any communication with the president-elect, so we have no concept of what to expect next,” Johnson told The Washington Post.
So far, Biden has nominated the following Black Americans to high-level position within his administration.
Kamala D. Harris Vice President-elect Let us not forget the historic appointment of Harris as the first female vice president, the first Black woman and the first Asian women to fill the job.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Ambassador to the United Nations. She is a former Foreign Service officer.
Wally Adeyemo, Deputy Treasury Secretary He is currently president of the Obama Foundation
Cecilia Rouse, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. Rouse is an economist and dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
Cedric Richmond, Adviser to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Richmond is currently a congressman from New Orleans, LA.
Symone Sanders and Karine Jean-Pierre were appointed to his communication team as chief spokeswoman for Harris and principal deputy press secretary, respectively.
While these are great positions, White officials were given higher profil positions such as chief of staff, national security advisers and press secretary. Biden has appointed backs Blacks to lower-profile positions or in “deputy” positions.
The focus now is on positions of Defense Secretary and Attorney General.
But those raising concerns cited Biden choosing White officials for top jobs at the state and treasury departments as well as White House positions including chief of staff, national security adviser and press secretary. Instead, they said, Biden has so far largely put Black officials in lower-profile positions or in jobs that include “deputy” in the title.
Their focus now is on positions including defense secretary and attorney general.
“Those of us that have had access to administrations know the difference between first tier and second tier,” the Rev. Al Sharpton told The Washington Post.
With looming Black Lives Matter and Justice issues, most of the civil rights leaders agree that the position of attorney general is one of the most important positions in directing how these issues will be addressed during a Biden administration.
Some of the names being promoted for attorney general are Deval Patrick, former Massachusetts governor who ran the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in the Clinton administration, and Tony West, a former associate attorney general during the Obama administration. Also being supported for the position by civil rights leaders is Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who lost his bid for reelection last month. Jones is White but has a strong civil rights background. While he was U.S. attorney he prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members for the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church where four young Black girls were killed.
The names of Black Americans being floated for Secretary of Defense are Jeh Johnson, a secretary of Homeland Security in the Obama administration, and Lloyd Austin, a retired Army general.
Black Americans aren’t the only groups disappointed with Biden’s appointments so far. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is pushing for more representation. So far Biden has appointed Cuban American Alejandro Mayorkas to run Homeland Security. Chamber members are pleased with that appointment but say it doesn’t go far enough to reflect the breadth of diversity within America’s Latinx community.
Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus wrote a letter to Biden to make sure his appointments reflected their community. Besides Harris, who is of Asian heritage, Biden has appointed Neera Tanden, whose parents were from India, to lead the Office of Management and Budget.