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Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Rep. Tony Cárdenas: ‘We are failing’ on staff diversity in Congress

The prominent Latino congressman called out House Democrats’ lack of diversity within their staff, prompting action from top committee members.

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Representative Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), chairman of the CHC Bold PAC, on Monday called-out the lack of diversity in Congress, saying diversity among representatives and senators is not reflective of their staff members.

Cárdenas wrote a letter to House Democrats first shared with The Hill, calling-out the lack of staff diversity in Congress, imperative to highlight especially now when racial tensions are at the forefront of the national conversation.

“Today, I sent a letter to my congressional colleagues about the shocking lack of staff diversity in Congress,” Cárdenas wrote. “The data is clear: when it comes to promoting and hiring people of color, we are failing.”
 

Later that same day, House Democrats adopted a new caucus rule encouraging diversity in their hiring process. The rule serves as a moment of self-reflection as the nation faces issues set forward by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers over a month ago. 

Since then, films, organizations, brands and now politicians have been called upon to self-reflect and recognize whether what they are publicly preaching in regards to Black Lives Matter and equality is reflected in the make-up of their staff.

In their newly adopted rule, House Democrat offices will practice the following: 

1. Engage with the House Diversity and Inclusion Office to identify qualified candidates for vacancies; 

2. Engage with congressional staff associations and outside stakeholder groups that represent diversity to solicit resumes; and 

3. Interview diverse applicants for all vacancies.

Under the new rule, congressional offices should “to the extent practicable” work with the House Diversity and Inclusion Office, created at the start of last January.

Pelosi and top Democratic caucus committee members issued a joint statement after adopting the rule, saying that while the caucus is more than 60% women, people of color and LGBTQ, it must take steps to exhibit that at all levels.

“One of our Caucus’s top priorities has long been to promote diversity at every level of Congress, so that these halls better reflect the dynamism and vibrancy of the American people whom we are privileged to represent,” the letter reads.

This is a chance to see whether the Diversity and Inclusion Office can make a difference moving forward, because now, a year since its inception, it has little to show for.

Congress is currently the most diverse it has ever been, but this diversity among members of congress does not see the same numbers of diversity within its staff. Yes, BIPOC are getting increasingly elected into Congress, but this must also be reflected among all staff members.

“According to the Joint Center, in 2018, 84% of chiefs, 88% of legislative directors, & 87% of communications directors were white. Of the 1,110 senior staff positions, only 152 were people of color,” Cárdenas pointed out in a Twitter thread.


“As we work to dismantle systemic racism throughout the US, it is time for us to be bold, break our habits, and correct our flaws as a legislative body and a caucus. Building a truly diverse House of Representatives is our responsibility, and, as leaders, we must do it now,” Cárdenas wrote. 

House Democrats issued the diversity rule less than two hours after Rep. Tony Cárdenas called out the glaring lack of diversity within their staff. Time will tell whether they will have anything substantial to show for next time.

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