The Trump administration doesn’t care about achieving diversity—we’ve long suspected that. But a cabinet official spelled it out in no uncertain terms.
Three senior Interior Department officials alleged that Secretary Ryan Zinke said several times “diversity isn’t important,” or “I don’t care about diversity,” or “I don’t really think that’s important anymore,” CNN reported on Tuesday.
The department’s spokesperson Heather Swift denied that Zinke made those statements. However, several other department employees backed the three senior officials, confirming to the news outlet that Zinke has consistently sent the message that he’s uninterested in achieving diversity.
The secretary’s remarks are consistent with the White House’s hiring practices. Back in December, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was dishonest when she said the administration has “a really diverse team across the board,” when asked how many senior Black staffers work for the White House. While the staff is mainly White and male, there are exceptions like Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah. And Trump’s cabinet at that time had one (token) each: an African-American, Asian-American, Indian-American and Hispanic American.
Under Zinke, the Interior Department reassigned 33 senior executives last year, 15 of whom were people of color. Some of them have filed complaints with the U.S. Merit System Protection Board, according to CNN. Only 28 percent of the 235 senior leaders in the department are people of color, but more than 40 percent of the 33 people removed without warning were non-whites.
This disregard for diversity also came from White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. He encouraged a group of African-American Republicans in December to submit their resumes—but then warned them that he was not looking specifically for Black people and women.
Kelly’s message was slightly different than Zinke’s blunt statements. Lots of employers claim that they’re color blind and hire based on merit. But Zinke sometimes couched his words with a similar talk like Kelly about seeking excellence. In the end, the Trump administration seems not unable (or unwilling) to find talented people of color.