The effects of American activism and a nationwide reckoning on racial issues have forced us to face the true impact of deeply-rooted systemic racism. As we enter a phase of reconciliation and begin to re-examine how we can do better, we first need to know where we stand.
Race shapes occupational outcomes. It impacts the experiences of all employees within an organization. But diversity along racial lines is nothing without real inclusion. We challenge the Administration to open the door of opportunity to racial minorities at the highest levels to ensure our voices are heard at the decision-making table. If there isn’t room, build a new table—one that presents equitable opportunities, not barriers.
We want to see the practice of inclusion in action. We are not interested in implementing policies that fail to include Black voices. We are not interested in making others feel comfortable while we continue to feel isolated and underrepresented. We are not interested in those who fail to have our best interests at heart when selecting the people who will represent us. We are not interested in sharing our expertise, only to be left out of the conversation when our ideas are shared. We are not willing to be an afterthought and be relegated to token representation because all of the key roles have been filled.
For years, we’ve heard diversity can be achieved in ways that have little or nothing to do with race. We disagree.
Each election cycle we hear about the importance of the Black vote. Black voters, particularly, have been the standard-bearers for the Democratic Party. We have carried the tremendous weight and responsibility of upholding our democracy through each and every voting cycle. Yet, we find ourselves inadequately included or represented in the government we’ve worked so tirelessly to support and protect. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is no exception.
We’ve failed to achieve adequate representation in the food and agriculture industry workforce. Instead, we have heard the dog whistle of “urban” and “rural” as code for Black and White, respectively. The reality is there are many rural communities with large minority populations. For them, USDA is the only game in town.
Black Professionals in Food and Agriculture (BPFA) was founded because all too often the voices and input of Black policymakers, congressional staff and industry representatives are excluded from the development of policies and programs that serve all of America’s farmers, ranchers and producers. BPFA is committed to ensuring those voices are heard and respected so we can move this Nation beyond the traditional thinking around diversity, equity, and inclusion.
President-Elect Joe Biden recently said, “the African American community stood up again for me. They always have my back, and I’ll have yours.” Now is the time to prove it.
We urge the following:
- Diversity, inclusion, and equity in USDA political staffing;
- Diversity metrics for the Administration as it relates to political appointments at USDA;
- Diverse candidate slates and interview panels for all vacancies;
- Mandatory diversity and inclusion training; and
- Designation of a Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer who reports directly to the Secretary (or Deputy Secretary).
Black Professionals in Food and Agriculture is an organization working to promote, advance and ensure representation of Black policy professionals in the food and agriculture sector.