President Biden’s cabinet is diverse, but it’s still only just a start
In an op-ed for the Wash. Post, Janet Murguía and Héctor Sánchez Barba say Latinos haven’t achieved equal representation in Biden’s cabinet. It's also true for Asian Americans.
In previous administrations, the highest number of Latinos to serve in Cabinet-level positions was four. President Biden’s cabinet continues the same precedent.
Biden promised to have an administration that is representative of the diversity within the United States. He made historic decisions in his Latino nominations, including the first-ever Latino as Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, and the first Latino Education Secretary, Miguel Cardona. He chose Xavier Becerra for Health and Human Services, and Isabel Guzman as the head of the Small Business Administration.
But this should be seen as, “only the start,” according to an op-ed for the Washington Post by Janet Murguía of UnidosUS and Héctor Sánchez Barba of Mi Familia Vota.
Biden’s cabinet is the most diverse in history, and his administration has been given credit for being such, however it doesn’t encapsulate the entirety of our government system.
The diversity issue is bigger than the presidency and his cabinet, and though he has constructed the most diverse cabinet in the nation’s history, it has its glaring faults.
In other words, Biden’s diverse cabinet can’t blanket the rest of the inequities in representation at the highest levels of power in the nation.
It’s a continuation of a prior precedent. These inequities are particularly notable among the members of Congress.
Female representation in Congress has been hovering between just under 20% and 25 % since 2015, according to the Center for American Women and Politics.
Currently just about 20% of the lawmakers in both the House and the Senate are Black or Latino.
And if Black Americans are taken out of the study, Latinos constitute just 1% of elected officials in Congress, as Murguía and Sánchez Barba highlight in their op-ed.
Despite record-breaking voter participation by Latinos in the 2020 election and subsequent Senate runoff election in Georgia by Latino voters, representation remains weak, and by the latest Census data — which is outdated — there should at least be five Latino members of Biden’s cabinet to truly reflect America, as the president had promised.
The op-ed references a recent UCLA study that found 16.6 million Hispanic voters participated in the 2020 election, an increase of over 30% since 2016.
Hispanic and Latino voters were the largest non-white voting bloc in the country, and their influence proved to make or break the vote in certain states and municipalities, whether it was the flip in Arizona, the final margin in Pennsylvania, or one of the downfalls of voter outreach in Florida, the demographic played decisive roles in the destinies of battleground states.
“Biden won the votes of about seven in 10 Latinos nationwide. Those votes made a crucial difference in flipping the key states of Arizona and Pennsylvania, where 71 and 69 percent of Latinos, respectively, voted for Biden,” the op-ed continues.
As Latino political power continues to grow, we need a government that represents the growing diversity of the electorate.
Read our CEO and Executive Director @Hesanche and @weareunidosus President and CEO @JMurguia_Unidos OpEd here: https://t.co/36To1ZXVl4 pic.twitter.com/CUZskGVeNx
— Mi Familia Vota (@MiFamiliaVota) February 11, 2021
In the weeks since Biden finalized his cabinet picks, and the cheers for diversity subsided. Critics becan to voice similar concerns — that perhaps it isn’t as groundbreaking as it should be, and despite making history, it remains years behind.
Those critics are often met with comments asking to give the president a “break,” because he just started, or to stop criticizing because he made history by appointing the first Black and South Asian woman for the vice-presidency, Kamala Harris.
“Expecting fair representation in the halls of power should not be controversial,” Murguía and Sánchez Barba respond, adding, “we have seen the direct correlation between underrepresentation in those important spaces of power and exclusion of our community from policy priorities.”
Biden’s Latino appointments were strategic, and intended the HHS, DHS and SBA to be led by Latinos. But the Biden-Harris administration “needs to appoint Latinos to positions of responsibility throughout the executive branch — not only to ensure a more diverse government than previous administrations.”
The same goes for other demographics in his cabinet, namely Asian-Americans.
Only Katherine Tai, chosen to serve as U.S. trade representative, has Asian or AAPI roots besides Vice President Kamala Harris.
Since her appointment, Mark Takano, D-Calif., said he is “profoundly disappointed” with Biden’s failure to appoint a person of Asian-American or Pacific Islander (AAPI) descent to serve in his cabinet apart from Harris.
The Biden administration will be the first administration in 20 years not to have an AAPI leading an executive department.
Biden wouldn’t be in office if it wasn’t for BIPOC voters.
“There is no shortage of qualified Latinos who are ready to serve and contribute to the well-being of all Americans. The ball is now in the new administration’s court. As we continue to build Latino political power, our community will hold this administration and all politicians accountable,” the op-end ends, with a call to action, away from the danger of a Cabinet that creates a facade for the lack of diversity in Congress.
If only it were as simple as taking a look at the nation’s demographics based on the most current Census data, and then building a representative cabinet.