Senate Hearing on Diversity in Diplomacy Fails to Get to Real Questions

A Senate hearing on “diversity and equity” in American diplomacy proved to be a wasted opportunity to tackle a core question in our politics: Do we want equality or “equity?”

Instead, the hearing began with mostly old white men complaining that the senior ranks at the State Department and U.S. Agency for International development were dominated by white men.

In essence, they complained that the agencies don’t do enough to discriminate against their own grandchildren in hiring.

The official name of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s hearing July 26 was “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in U.S. Diplomacy and Development.

The two officials who testified-Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, the State Department’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, and Neneh Diallo, USAID’s chief diversity officer—were bathed in praise and never challenged on their methods or results, or the controversial goal of “equity” itself.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., the committee’s chairman, began by complaining that “progress has been slow” on diversity at the State Department. Menendez presented a chart showing that while the overall proportion of racial minority people increased from 28% and 34% to 2002, the percentage of black employees declined from 17% to 15% between 2002 and 2021. (About 13% U.S. citizens are African Americans. population.)

The New Jersey Democrat’s bigger beef was that the senior ranks are around 85% white, and that only 12% of ambassadors are from “underrepresented” communities.

The committee’s ranking member, Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, complained about the prevalence of employees from coastal and urban areas rather than the heartland.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., irrelevantly asked about access to “comprehensive reproductive services” (she meant abortion) for foreign service officers overseas, while lamenting that 80% of State Department doctors are white men.

‘Brazen Discrimination’

Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took a slightly different approach. Cruz charged that the Biden administration is staffed by “radicals” under whom the State Department has “alienated friends and appeased enemies.”

Cruz accused both State and USAID of hiring practices based on the leftist definition of “equity” that result in “brazen discrimination.” The Texas Republican showed an email from a senior official that alluded to allegations from State employees that candidates aren’t being hired for open positions because they are straight white men, have the wrong religion, or are disabled.

State’s Abercrombie-Winstanley said she never had seen or cleared any such hiring guidance.

In reaction to Cruz’s remarks, Menendez sanctimoniously read the definition of “equity” from a dictionary as “the quality of being fair and impartial, freedom from bias or favoritism.”

Evidently, the New Jersey Democrat hasn’t read Vice President Kamala Harris’ definition. In a videoHarris posted on Twitter just a few days prior to the 2020 election and clearly explained how equity and equality are at war.

So there’s a big difference between equality and equity. Equality suggests, ‘Oh, everyone should get the same amount.’ The problem with that [is] not everybody’s starting out from the same place.

So if we’re all getting the same amount, but you started out back there and I started out over here, we could get the same amount but you’re still going to be that far back behind me. It’s about giving people the resources and the support they need, so that everyone can be on equal footing, and then compete on equal footing. Equitable treatment is when we all end up at the same place.

The question is, should the U.S. government hire in a way that creates more equality of opportunities or by manipulating outcomes in a non-constitutional way? For diversity and inclusion officers as well as chief diversity officers, it’s the latter path.

Unanswered Questions

If the USAID and State have different racial representations than the general population, it is time to ask why. We must address racism or other barriers that cause it, but not by creating new forms discrimination.

Here are some questions senators might ask. ShouldYou have asked:

How do you break down the sex and race distribution of applicants for jobs at State Department and foreign service exams?

—Is there any difference in the pass/fail percentage by race? Are these results due other than measurable qualifications?

—If most foreign service officers have a college degree, and attainment of college degrees varies by racial groupThis would not result in a disproportionately high number of people with college degrees.

Ibram.X. Kendi, patron saint of woke progressives, believes that disparity can only result from systemic discrimination. All other inputs aren’t worth considering.

His solution? “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination.”

That is the race-essentialist thinking that informs the Biden administration’s approach to “equity.”

The highly competitive application process means that the foreign service is vulnerable to the influence of a diverse range of social and individual factors. American citizens are one example. education is failingMany states and cities have high school graduates who can read, write, and even find Finland on a map.

There is not enough information

Lack of information is a major problem at USAID and the State Department.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) asked how USAID and State gathered data to establish their baseline. USAID’s Diallo replied that the agencies hope to launch a survey soon to “evaluate the composition of our workforce.”

State’s Abercrombie-Winstanley said the department has a portal through which employees voluntarily may supply information, and is working on a pilot program to break down LGBTQ+ nomenclature, so that people are able to identify themselves perfectly.

This is where the problem lies: Internal polls get low response rates. Maybe people are too busy, or perhaps they don’t want to supply information they suspect will be used to discriminate against them. Any conclusions drawn from the reports of a selected minority of the workforce are of little value.

Notwithstanding this, Abercrombie-Winstanley testified that her diversity office at State had “done a climate survey and we know the vast majority of our employees support [State’s equity efforts].”

One thing she did was to link action on diversity and equity, inclusion, accessibility, and promotion criteria for foreign service officer officers.

This was also done by Diallo at USAID. The approach holds foreign service and civil service managers responsible for something they have no control of—the applicant pool, which is deficient in certain officially desired identity groups. Every hiring manager must compete for the same candidates in a contest where failure to hire “diverse” applicants results in lower performance evaluations. This is exactly what is happening.

For example, in a recent job assignment cycle, women made up one-third of applicants for prestige positions like deputy chief of missions and principal officer, but they won nearly two-thirds the jobs.

Change the Test

It is well-known that State Department assigns more qualified applicants from those with official desired identities, even though it would be suicide to admit it.

Abercrombie-Winstanley boasted of another achievement: making unprecedented changes to the test for applicants for foreign service officer.

Abercrombie-Winstanley said she believes that the race-blind written test “has zero correlation to being a successful diplomat.” She said she prefers the subjective, easier-to-game oral exam, which “actually does have a correlation to success as a diplomat—[it]Is [a] test for racists, or sexists, or homophobes, or ableists.”

“Those are the things that we need to be screening for,” Abercrombie-Winstanley said.

Now, instead of a process in which only those passing the written exam go on to take the oral exam, State’s Board of Examiners will be able to pick others from the pile that failed. The goal: to bring “intersectional” factors into play and ensure an “equitable” outcome by race, sex, or other identity markers.

The hearing ignored the fact that the State Department already encourages diversity in hiring.

Senior diplomats are sent to colleges that have a high percentage of Hispanic students. The PickeringAnd Rangel fellowships, which bypass the written exam and mostly are filled by minority applicants, have accounted for around 20% of foreign service recruitment in recent years—and in particular a significant majority of the black foreign service officers hired .

The State employed 327 workers in fiscal year 2022 foreign service officers, of whom 90—nearly a third—were Pickering and Rangel fellows. USAID has similar programs. recruitment channelsThis will allow you to skip the objective, race-blind exam.

But as chief diversity and inclusion officer, Abercrombie-Winstanley wants more: a foreign service intake that reflects the proportions of identity groups (excepting, of course, diversity of political opinion) desired by the Biden administration.

Studying ‘Barriers’

For many years, top universities have ensured the diversity of incoming classes by eschewing test scores and taking a subjective, “holistic” approachto candidate selection. This is in keeping with the language used for academic admissions. The State Department clearly desires this flexibility to modify the intake of foreign service classes to favor currently preferred groups.

Similarly, USAID’s Diallo said her agency will use “non-traditional means” to recruit desired applicants, including outreach at universities that cater to mostly non-white populations and increased mid-career, lateral hiring that bypasses objective tests.

After 18 months on the job at State, Abercrombie-Winstanley seemed to have more questions than answers in her testimony.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., asked why the State Department hasn’t been able to identify supposed barriers to hiring women and minorities. Abercrombie-Winstanley’s answer was that State now has studies on “barrier analysis” underway to find out.

Booker also wanted to know about retention. Why does the rate of black officers leaving be slightly higher? Once again, Abercrombie-Winstanley’s answer was that she has “set up a retention unit” to look into it.

A 2021 report by the Congressional Research Service found “poor information on why people choose to leave” the State Department.  One reason for attrition is that talented black officers are in high demand in the private sector, where the salaries are much higher than in government.

However, State’s diversity, equity, and inclusion mentality ignores this possibility and focuses instead on “microaggressions” and other questionable factors as the cause for officers leaving midcareer.

Foot on the Scale

If you want to see Kendian or Harris-style “equity” in action, here it is: Diallo touted USAID’s 2022 new officer cohort as the “most diverse to date,” with 52% racial and ethnic minorities, including 18% black, 18% Hispanic, and 14% Asian.

According to the 2020 census, blacks account for roughly 13% of the U.S. populace, while Hispanics make up 19% and Asians 6%.

58% of Americans are white, 48% of whom are USAID students. About half of all incoming foreign service classes are now made up by women.

Over time, these numbers militate a gradual alignment of the foreign service toward national norms; today’s staff demographics reflect the intake of a generation ago.

Abercrombie-Winstanley testified that her job is to “assure that the best rise to the top because of merit.” However, her method of doing so is to put a bureaucratic, subjective foot on the hiring scale rather than looking to expand equality of opportunity.

Following President Joe Biden’s executive order, all federal agencies have developed “equity action plans,” which almost always involve hiring new chief diversity bureaucrats whose focus is internal and not on the agency’s core mission.

Nearly all State bureaus and embassy locations are within reach ArmeniaTo ZambiaNow there is a diversity and inclusion council. Diallo stated that USAID has now 50 such councils, 13 diversity and equity advisors, and more are being added. 

These numbers show how the left uses government employment to create jobs, how agencies are so overworked, and how the left controls so many institutions.

Lowering the bar

These plans are based on the same quasi-Marxist critical race theory principles that inform “equity” in the sense that proponents such as Kendi and Harris define it.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, insists that “Intersectionality matters” and states: “Federal policies, grants, and programs should always account for how people’s multiple identities interact with intersecting systems of oppression.”

America’s diplomats indeed should represent the diversity of the country, but consistent with the merit principle of entry that has been established for a century.

Federal agencies such as the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development shouldn’t be expected to make up for deficiencies in public education by unilaterally lowering or rigging entrance requirements.

The foreign service needs to remain a bastion of equality and meritocracy, not socialist efforts at racial balancing in the pursuit of “equity.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was smart enough to hold hearings about this important but divisive topic. However, the senators failed in this round of hearings to get to the root problem and much less address it.

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