As the Senate confirmation process grinds on, President Donald Trump’s cabinet selections speaks volumes.
In what many are calling a setback for diversity, Trump is on track to have fewer female and non-White cabinet members in over 30 years, the New York Times reports.
He has named just five women and non-Whites for 22 cabinet post. What’s more, those five posts are among the lowest-ranking positions.
Ben Carson, chosen to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, would be the only African-American on Trump’s team. The four nominated women are Elaine Chao, for Transportation Department, Betsy DeVos, for Education Department, Nikki Haley, United Nations ambassador, and Linda McMahon for the Small Business Administration.
What’s also striking, as the Washington Post noted, Trump has not nominated a Latino. President Ronald Reagan named Lauro Cavazos education secretary in 1988—the first Latino cabinet member. Since then, presidents have appointed at least one Latino to their cabinet.
The Trump administration has responded by pushing back against critics. White House press secretary Sean Spicer had this to say at a press conference:
“I think if we look at the totality of his administration, the people that he’s talked to, the people that he’s met with, the people that he’s appointed, you see a president who is committed to uniting this country and bringing the best and the brightest together.”
That statement suggested to many that the administration struggled to find highly-qualified women and minorities to fill cabinet posts.
Spicer also stated that diversity is not “just about skin color or ethnic heritage.” He said the cabinet will have a “diversity in thinking, and diversity of ideology.”
Despite the administration’s take on the meaning diversity, many are critical that actual diversity is taking a step back.
“Donald Trump is rolling back the clock on diversity in the cabinet,” New York University Professor Paul Light told The Times.
Light told The Times that presidents responded to calls for cabinet diversity as non-Whites and women gained political prominence.
Clinton pledged to create a diverse cabinet that “looks like America.” Bush followed with a first-term cabinet composition that was 45 percent female and non-White male. For President Barack Obama, the composition was 64 percent, according to The Times.
Robert Weaver was the first African-American cabinet member. President Lyndon Johnson appointed him in 1966 as the first-ever HUD secretary.