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Biden’s early election raises black concerns about too few senior black officials

NAACP President Derrick Johnson said on Tuesday he was confused that Biden had not confirmed a meeting with civil rights groups nearly a month after election day.

“We have not had any communication with the newly elected president, so we have no idea what to expect next,” Johnson said, noting that Biden has been a longtime member of the organization and that the NAACP is pushing hard for his election. “It affects us somewhat.”

“But for the support of the black community for him, he will not be in office,”

; he said.

Prominent advocates and members of Congress, who usually have a lower profile, also expressed disappointment with Biden’s nascent administration – in some cases saying they hoped the alarm would affect Biden’s thinking as he filled his government.

“I really thought – at this point in the game – I would see more African-American appointments to senior positions,” said Bonnie Watson Coleman (DN.J.), a member of the Black Councilor Congress who supported Biden in the Democratic Primary. “And I would have more confidence that there will be more African-American men and women in top-level positions.”

“We are capable of being in these leading positions,” added Watson Coleman. “I do not see him yet. And that’s disappointing to me. “

Clayola Brown, president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, a union group, said Biden had “fallen a little more than just” on expectations regarding the recruitment of black employees – especially when recruiting black women to “significant positions within this administration. “

Biden’s transition team confirmed that it had received a request for a meeting from the seven groups. Biden officials said they had “committed” to some of the groups individually, including the NAACP Legal Protection Fund and the City League. They did not confirm that the requested meeting would take place.

Biden has nominated longtime diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a former black foreign service officer, as ambassador to the United Nations. And on Tuesday, he introduced six key members of his economic team, a group that includes Wally Adeemo, who will be the first deputy secretary of the African-American treasury, and Cecilia Rus, who will be the first black official to serve as council president. of economic advisers. The group also included Neera Tanden, who would be the first woman of color – her parents were from India – to lead the government and the budget. All require confirmation from the Senate.

But those of concern were quoted as saying by Biden, who elects white officials to senior positions in government and the treasury, as well as in White House positions, including chief of staff, national security adviser and press secretary. Instead, they said, Biden has so far largely placed black employees in lower-profile positions or jobs that include a “deputy” in the title.

Now their focus is on positions, including defense minister and chief prosecutor. They argue that Biden’s decisions on these two key roles could affect the two Senate races in Georgia – which will determine which party controls the upper house. Democrats need strong voter turnout to win these contests.

“To win Georgia, you have to have a very strong African-American voting base,” Johnson said. “At the very least, you don’t have to do anything to suppress the energy and enthusiasm on that basis. Whoever he appointed to what position could very well do that. “

Biden officials noted that so far, half of the cabinet’s positions include people of color, and that 10 black employees have been appointed to key positions. Biden has overcome four racial barriers with his nominations, including the appointment of Alejandro Mayorkas as the first Spaniard to head the Homeland Security.

Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris will be the first woman, the first black woman and the first Asian American to fill the post. Biden has vowed to name the first black woman in the Supreme Court if a discovery occurs.

“His success in finding different voices to develop and implement his political vision to address the nation’s most difficult challenges will become clear when our full list of nominees and nominees is complete,” said Cameron French, a spokesman for Biden’s transition.

Other groups than the seven that requested a meeting also proved difficult: In late November, the Asia-Pacific Congressional African Council sent a letter to Biden, urging him to make sure his appointments reflected their population in the United States.

Janet Murgia, president of the Latin American organization UnidosUS, said there was initially excitement over the election of Mayorkas for the post of internal security.

“We think this is a great start, but much more needs to be done to see greater representation at the highest levels,” Murguya said. “There are still many roles to be played. We are encouraged by what we have seen so far. But there are some key roles that we think could be played by key senior Latin Americans. “

Biden’s team noted that so far he has indicated less than a quarter of the federal positions he plans to highlight. For example, Susan E. Rice, an African-American who was on Biden’s list as secretary of state and vice president, will get a “key job” in the Biden administration, according to a person in direct contact with the president-elect.

Yet civil rights leaders say they are focused on senior positions.

“Those of us who have had access to administrations know the difference between the first and second levels,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who is among those hoping to meet Biden.

Sharpton noted that President Barack Obama had two black attorneys general during his eight years in the White House. “Expectations among the civil rights community and the black community here are not unfounded,” Sharpton said.

He and others promoted Deval Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts, who headed the Department of Justice’s civil rights department during the Clinton administration, and Tony West, a former associate attorney general during the Obama administration. They also signaled that Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Who was defeated in November, would be delicious. Jones is white, but has strong civil rights experience, especially when, as an American lawyer, he prosecuted members of the Ku Klux Klan for the 1963 bombing of a church in Birmingham that killed four young black girls.

“We had an equal account with George Floyd,” Sharpton said. “To answer that without a prosecutor general who has not only sensitivity but also experience in protecting people with police reform and suffrage would be very unpleasant if it were not offensive to the community he promised to represent. on the night he was elected. “

“Joe Biden said the African-American community has its back and it will get ours,” he added. “We would guess, but we’ll see in the meetings.”

As for the defense slot, Michelle Flornoy, a former deputy defense secretary for politics in the Obama administration who is white, has long been considered a leading candidate for the first female defense minister.

But in the last few weeks, two black candidates have been nominated: Jay Johnson, the Obama administration’s secretary of internal security, and Lloyd Austin, a retired Army general.

Johnson of the NAACP said it was a “problem” that he and other civil rights leaders had not yet heard from Biden about setting a meeting time. In addition to the NAACP, the group includes representatives of the City League and the Sharpton National Action Network, among others.

“It is very important that this meeting with historic civil rights leaders takes place,” said Mark H. Morial, president and CEO of the National City League. “We want to have the conversation and we want to establish the connection – and the connection is one in which there will be moments when we will be supportive, and we may have to object.

“There are high expectations about the diversity of the cabinet,” Morial said. “And we think the expectations are when it comes to the cabinet [of] this incoming administration, it will surpass the high level of Clinton and Obama. “

This was a reference to the support of black voters during the general election. Black voters backed Biden broadly in several key states that were elected President Trump in 2016. In Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, which secured his pre-election advantage, about 9 out of 10 Montenegrin voters sided with him. of Biden, show the initial polls.

During the Democratic Championships, Biden’s candidacy was revived in South Carolina after he was approved by the powerful representative James E. Clayburn (DS.C.). But Clayburn is also among those concerned about Biden’s appointments. “I want to see where the process is going, what it’s producing,” Cliburn told Juan Williams, a columnist for The Hill. “But it’s not good yet.”

He and others called for a possible nomination for agriculture minister by Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio), a member of the Black Council Congress. Biden said he was reluctant to elect members of the House or Senate to work, as that could reduce the party’s power on Capitol Hill.

“It is extremely important that the leadership of black women is well represented in your office and throughout the administration,” said a letter signed by two dozen officials who lead groups promoting black women.

The letter was organized by Melanie Campbell, president of the National Coalition for Civic Participation of Blacks and convener of the Black Women Roundtable, who said that in addition to agriculture, she insisted that black women lead at least one other major department, such as housing and urban planning. development; Education; Health and humanitarian services; or Justice.

“We value staff positions,” Campbell said. “But where are the black women in the mandatory cabinets?”

Vanessa Williams, Dan Lamot and Amy B. Wang contributed to this report.

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