Grantee/Partner News

Demonstrations Prompt National Security Community Push for Diversity

June 9, 2020

Grantee News From WCAPS:

Demonstrators kneel as they protest against police brutality and the death of George Floyd, across from the White House on June 7, 2020 in Washington, DC. – On May 25, 2020, Floyd, a 46-year-old black man suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill, died in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

In a letter, more than 150 organizations and practitioners in the national security and foreign-policy communities pledged to add more diversity to their ranks and boards of directors.

“These racial attitudes exist in all facets of our lives, weakening our democracy, and opposing our values of equality, justice, and freedom,” said the letter, led by Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security and Conflict Transformation, a Washington-based advocacy organization. “To root out institutional racism, it is vital that we re-examine our implicit and explicit biases, as well as biases within our organizations.”

“Institutional racism purposefully disadvantages Black people and people of color through social, economic, and political systems, reinforcing white supremacy, and must be consciously confronted, addressed and removed,” the signatories added in the letter, which also calls for national security organizations to develop mentorship programs for African Americans and to develop processes to hire more employees from lower-income communities.

Among the signatories on the letter are think tank, advocacy, and charitable organizations such as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Truman Center for National Policy, National Iranian American Council, Oxfam America, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, Center for American Progress, Win Without War, Arms Control Association, and New America.

In the wake of the death of George Floyd, advocates have worried that there are not enough avenues for young African Americans to seek out careers in national security and foreign service. In the Office of Personnel Management’s last report on diversity levels in government, released in 2018, the percentage of black employees in the U.S. government went backward, from 11.4 percent to 11 percent. African Americans represent just over 13 percent of the U.S. population overall.

The administration of President Donald Trump has also struggled to bring in diverse picks for high-level roles. In February, Foreign Policy reported that the State Department’s efforts to boost diversity in the foreign and civil service had often come up short and had sometimes resulted in a decrease in the number of minorities and women coming to work in Foggy Bottom and at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, according to a Government Accountability Office finding.

“There’s not the presence of them, there’s not the mentorships for them, and so the policies that are developed do not reflect their input,” said Bonnie Jenkins, a former State Department official during the Obama administration who organized the letter. “Younger people don’t see people of color, so they don’t go into these fields.”

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