The Diversity Declaration

Government of the People, by the People, and for the People

Why We're Supporting Andy Kim for Congress

Diversity Declaration is promoting Andy Kim's exciting bid to be the next U.S. Representative from a swing District: New Jersey's Third.

Andy emerged quickly after the election of November 2016 as a progressive leader helping mobilize others past fear and despair on to constructive action and engagement in the political process.  Drawing on his experience and networks, in November 2016 he launched Rise Stronger, http://www.risestronger.org which has been a partner to our efforts at Diversity Declaration, and organized a major networking and mobilization event in conjunction with the Women's March on Washington.

NJ-3 is prime territory for our action:  in south-central New Jersey just outside Philadelphia, with people of color making up 19% of its population.  Andy's message, and ours, can reach the voters he needs to take the seat, if WE get involved and help him!

Republicans are focused on keeping Andy's opponent, incumbent Representative Tom MacArthur, in office. MacArthur led the Trump Adminstration’s attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017 and end requirements to cover pre-existing conditions. 

Andy is an Asian American candidate who grew up in NJ-3.  He is a Rhodes scholar. As a career public servant, Andy served two years in the Obama White House as Director for Iraq at the National Security Council, where he was a point person coordinating the global effort against the Islamic State. He had previously served in Kabul, Afghanistan as a U.S. diplomat and strategic adviser to Generals David Petraeus and John Allen. Andy also served in the Pentagon, the State Department, USAID and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

CNN, Cook Political and Inside Elections have downgraded MacArthur's chances of elections in the past two months.  Democrats now hold a 17,000 registered voters advantage over Republicans in the district, up 4,000 since 2016.  Public polls show Andy in the lead when poll respondents are informed of MacArthur's record on healthcare and taxes.  But the race is going to be a CLOSE one.  Every single door knocked, every phone call, every bit of voter contact will make a difference.  Think about what you can do to help us get this diversity champion into office in November!

 Want more info about this race?  Check out this excellent analysis from our friends at Swing Left!

 

Building Future Leaders in Virginia

Great news!  On July 16, we raised $1,450 for the Ella Baker Youth Leadership Program, established by Virginia Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, through the happy hour we co-hosted with her team at Heavy Seas Ale House in Arlington.  Thanks to all who attended and donated so generously, in person and online! Donations continue to be accepted towards our $2,500 goal, at http://www.actblue.com/ellabaker or by check, made out to Jennifer Carroll Foy for Delegate, P.O. Box 5113, Woodbridge, VA 22194, annotated for the Ella Baker YLP.

We're excited to help these diversity high school students get first-hand experiences with political leaders and the Legislature, and start imagining their future roles in the political life of this country.

Support Youth Leadership & Engagement on July 16 with VA Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy's Ella Baker Youth Leadership Program

Diversity Declaration joins Virginia Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy in inviting young professionals to a happy hour on July 16, aiming to raise at least $2,500 to send six to eight diversity high school students to learn first-hand about state government in the Virginia State Capitol next year, free of charge, in Delegate Carroll Foy’s Ella Baker Youth Leadership Program. Through the Program, named for the civil rights leader, the students sit in subcommittee meetings, meet advocacy groups, shadow the Delegate, and meet with Governor Northam and Lt. Governor Fairfax.

Check out our events page for the details about joining!

Online contributions may be made at https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ellabakerfundraiser#

Results from the New Jersey Primaries: Prospects and Challenges for Progressive Candidates

Diversity Declaration tracked two New Jersey House primaries on June 5 that highlight prospects and challenges for progressive candidates in the 2018 midterms:

NJ-2: As the New York Times wrote: “Jeff Van Drew, a state senator, won the Democratic primary. Mr. Van Drew, a conservative Democrat with a pro-gun record who voted against same-sex marriage in 2012, nonetheless won the backing of powerful South Jersey Democrats early on and was able to fend off a challenge from some progressive candidates.”

NJ-3: Andy Kim, an Obama Administration national security official endorsed by former VP Joe Biden, and the founder of www.risestronger.org, secured the Democratic nomination, running unopposed. He now must wage an uphill battle going into November’s general election, against wealthy Republican incumbent Tom MacArthur. NJ-3 has 12,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, and Cook’s Political Report has shifted its rating of the district to the left this year, though NJ-3 voted for Trump in 2016 after voting twice for Obama. MacArthur has a vast personal fortune to fund his own campaign. 

http://observer.com/2018/04/cook-shifts-tom-macarthur-district/

www.andykimforcongress.com

May Democratic Primaries

The May Democratic primaries saw victories by a group of female diversity candidates, adding to the momentum that the Diversity Declaration is working to encourage.  All these candidates face significant challenges and need exceptional mobilization of support to win.

Georgia: Stacey Abrams, 44, is the first African-American to win a primary for governor.  If elected, she would be the state’s first woman governor and the first African-American woman governor in the U.S.  Georgia hasn’t had a Democratic governor in 20 years. Abrams’ opponent will be one of two Trump-style Republicans; Trump won Georgia by a five percent margin in 2016.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/stacey-abrams-wins-democratic-nomination-for-governor_us_5b045d41e4b003dc7e471586)

 

Idaho: Paulette Jordan, 38, is waging an uphill battle be the nation’s first Native American governor, in a staunchly conservative, Republican state.

https://www.vox.com/2018/5/16/17357906/idaho-governor-results-paulette-jordan-democratic-primary

 

Texas: Lupe Valdez, 70, won the primary as the first Latina and openly gay person nominated by a major party in the race for governor of Texas.  The Republican incumbent governor is favored to win in November, and Republicans have long controlled the state, but Valdez has a history of overcoming long odds.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lupe-valdez-win-texas-democratic-primary-governor_us_5afcac91e4b06a3fb50d613c?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=hp_fb_pages&utm_source=main_fb

 

Gina Ortiz Jones, 37, won the primary for a House seat. If elected, she would be the first lesbian, Iraq War veteran and Filipina-American to represent Texas in Congress. Her district leans Republican and her two-term incumbent opponent has a much larger war chest so far.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/gina-ortiz-jones-congress-texas_us_5b043424e4b003dc7e46b984

 

Do you like hearing about candidates like these inspiring women?  Do you want to help us others like them elected?  It's easy and fun!  We are tracking several Congressional races closely, and will be focusing on some key races in 'swing' districts within the next few weeks.  We'd love to hear from you on any races YOU are tracking, and will cross-post information so please follow our Facebook page and e-mail or message us with your thoughts!

Motivation Monday: Challenges for Diversity Candidates in Maryland and New Jersey

Diversity candidates for upcoming Democratic primaries, in increasingly diverse districts with significant immigrant populations, face tough challenges - even from within the Democratic Party.

Aruna Miller's strong showing in Maryland's 6th district has made her the preferred target of GOP attack ads.  In New Jersey's 2nd district, a conservative, white, male Democrat has the full backing of the Democratic Party establishment, who sees in him its best chance of recapturing a seat held by a Republican for two decades.  Progressive activists in New Jersey see the Party turning its back on viable candidates more in line with the values it claims to represent, in service of trying to take back the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Washington Post and Politico offer some insight into how things are shaking out in both Maryland and New Jersey.

Democratic Primary is Two Months Away but the Republicans have Already Picked Out Their Favorite Candidate to Attack | Washington Post

How Progressives Got Steamrolled in New Jersey | Politico 

 

Motivation Monday: Open Letter on Equity in National Security & Upcoming Meeting

We have joined forces with the Open Society Policy Center by signing on to their Open Letter on "Fundamental Equity and Inclusion for U.S. National Security and Global Engagement." Click here to read the letter.

Reminder: our Quarterly Meeting is this Sunday, April 22 from 3pm-5pm at the United Methodist Building, 100 Maryland Ave. NE, Washington DC 20002. We anticipate a great discussion setting out our work for the coming months.  Please RSVP with an email (info@diversitydeclaration.com) if you have not already.

Thinking Ahead to November

With Conor Lamb's recent Congressional victory in Pennsylvania, Diversity Declaration sees the November 2018 mid-term elections as ripe for unexpected victories by untraditional candidates.  Watch this space in the coming months for reports about interesting candidates - and send us your ideas!  Our research volunteers are hard at work and would love insights on interesting candidates.

Our research shows that the southeast corner of Pennsylvania, around Philadelphia, might be our richest target for Diversity Declaration work and collaboration.  The recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling on illegal gerrymandering only increases the possibility of significant political change in that state. Five districts were previously identified as possible candidates for flipping; the court-ordered redrawing of the electoral districts could create more change. 

Maryland politicians could be good recruits for the Diversity Declaration given their senior status in the leadership and their ability to publicly advance more progressive policies and platforms. Maryland's Congressional District 6 will have an open seat, and our volunteers have already been busy engaging several of the primary candidates!

Want to help us select target races?  We'd love your help!  E-mail us at info@diversitydeclaration.com to get more involved.

 

Urging Our Senators to Commit to Diversity in Hiring

On February 15, we joined about a dozen other organizations signing onto letters sent by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies to Senator Menendez, recently reinstated as Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Cardin, recently appointed Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

The letters urge the Senators to:

  1. Apply the Rooney Rule and interview at least one person of color for their staff director and general counsel roles;
  2. Commit to hiring diverse candidates throughout their offices to ensure that the demographics of their offices reflect the demographics of their constituents; and
  3. Commit to hiring at least one person of color for their staff director or general counsel position. 

County Council Candidates Talk About Racial Equity and Immigrant Rights

Montgomery County, Maryland is one of the most diverse counties in the United States.  Yet, the County Council has traditionally represented only a fraction of the county's communities.  Local elections matter and it's important to hold our representatives at ALL levels of government accountable to ALL our communities.  That's why your Diversity Matters team decided to check out yesterday's County Executive Forum on Racial Equity and Immigrant Rights.  This grassroots-hosted event raised questions to an all-white, mostly male panel of candidates that they may not usually have to face.  The excellent moderators asked the panelists tough questions about discrimination in housing and zoning, dealing with distrust between police and communities, and how they would handle the Trump administration's aggressive ICE raids and targeting of undocumented immigrants.  We are not endorsing any particular candidate in this county election, but were glad to see candidates pushed to consider what more they could do to reach out and engage the very large immigrant communities that have not had a strong voice in local government.  Candidates were also asked how historical wrongs against the African American community, who have literally had their graves paved over by developers, could be addressed.
 

We felt all of the candidates could do much more to address these questions but hats off to the event organizers for making sure we were at the table.  We encourage all our supporters to take a look at upcoming local events in your community, and bring your voice to the room. 

Letter to Senator Doug Jones

December 19, 2017

The Honorable Doug Jones

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator-Elect Jones:

Congratulations on your historic victory in last week’s election. As you prepare to staff your local and Washington, DC offices, we believe it is vital that you do so with a recognition of the profound lack of racial diversity that currently exists among staff in the U.S. Senate. We urge you to commit to making diversity a priority in hiring by doing the following:

  • Embrace the "Rooney Rule" and interview at least one person of color for every senior position in your office;
  • Commit to hiring diverse candidates throughout your offices to ensure that the demographics of your office reflect the demographics of Alabama and America;
  • Commit to hiring at least one person of color for a senior staff position in your Washington office, defined as chief of staff, legislative director, and communications director.

Members of Congress cannot fully represent all the communities they were elected to serve without advisors that reflect the whole of America.

As you may know, earlier this year the Senate Democratic Caucus adopted the Rooney Rule, a commitment to interviewing at least one person of color for senior staff positions. We ask that you embrace this caucus rule and interview people of color for senior positions in your respective offices.

A diverse coalition is not only essential in securing electoral victories, but also fundamental in creating policy that fully represents the voices of Americans.

Staffers provide political and policy expertise, develop legislation, and act as representatives for Members with constituents and advocacy organizations. They also manage offices, hire and remove employees, and work with you to respond publicly during times of crisis. While Senators make the final decision, senior Senate staff in particular possess significant influence in shaping the legislative process and oversight of federal components that have over four million civilian and military personnel and multibillion dollar budgets. Senior Senate staff positions are also important because the Senate has several unique responsibilities, including the confirmation of federal judges, cabinet secretaries, ambassadors, and many other top federal agency officials.

In December 2015, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies conducted a study on Racial Diversity Among Top Senate Staff. In a nation that was 36 percent minority, just 7.1 percent of senior Senate staffers, defined then as chief of staff, legislative director, communications director, and committee staff director, were people of color. In 2016, a movement began to remove the barriers that have closed the door of opportunity to qualified people of color seeking to serve the American people on Capitol Hill. The movement has been clear: the status quo is no longer acceptable. Diversity must be a priority.

As a new Member of the U.S. Senate, you have an opportunity to show your constituents that not only do their voices matter, but that their experiences and skills are vital to the work that you do to represent them. Ensuring racial diversity among your staff would enhance the deliberation, innovation, legitimacy, and outcomes of your office and of the Senate as a whole. Hiring at least one person of color to your senior staff in Washington would speak loudly, and we ask that you do so among the qualified applicants that you will receive.

The lack of diversity among top Senate staff is not caused by a complete absence of strong candidates of color. In the coming weeks, we intend to work closely with Leader Schumer’s Democratic Diversity Initiative to provide you with a slate of exemplary candidates for all positions in your Washington office. We would also be happy meet with you and your transition team to discuss best practices for identifying and attracting strong candidates of color.

Together, we can continue the progress in ensuring that our most democratic branch of government is truly representative of Alabama and our nation. We look forward to working with you.

Thank you,

Asian Improv Arts Midwest

Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS)

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO

Diversity Matters

Inclusv

Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

National Action Network

National Asian Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse (NAPAFASA)

NAACP

NALEO Educational Fund

National Coalition on Black Civic Participation

National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL)

National Urban League

OCA Asian Pacific American Advocates

South Asian Fund For Education, Scholarship and Training (SAFEST)

Dear Virginia Delegates . . .

We are astounded and thrilled at the victories this month in Virginia!  Each and every one of the Virginia candidates who endorsed the Diversity Declaration WON their elections, and many of them won against outrageous odds- they faced heavily gerrymandered districts, dog whistle attacks by their opponents, and dark money.  But when we vote, we win.  The Virginia legislature now has its first-ever Latina, Asian and transgender representatives and new African-American representatives as well.

But we're not finished.  Rich and powerful forces will want to get them out again.  We can't just leave them on their own- we need to build a bench behind them, so that when they tire, others are trained and ready to step in.  In order to ensure a strong pipeline of future leaders, it is vital to reach down and ensure that staff don't just come from the same small talent pool.  That's why we have teamed up with Inclusv, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, and Virginia Leadership Institute to ask them to take a new pledge.  Follow us on Facebook or sign up for our listserv to find out how you can help us reach more and more elected officials to commit to the Diversity Pipeline Pledge.

Diversity Pipeline Pledge

The best public policy happens when there is a diversity of views and experience to inform it, and diversity happens when our elected officials are serious about recruiting, hiring, and retaining diverse staff.  We therefore commit to:

*Implement the Rooney Rule, which calls on offices to interview one or more candidates from underrepresented backgrounds for all office vacancies.

*Support efforts to benchmark and track progress within the legislature and in your own office.  Collect and analyze staff demographic information, and support efforts to publicly collect and analyze staff demographic data.

*Utilize diverse talent pipelines, particularly through page and intern programs, in partnership with national organizations, institutions, internship and fellowship partners.

 

 

Beyond Charlottesville

We're mad about the Arpaio pardon, and we're outraged but energized by Charlottesville.  Ordinary people of every color, religion, and background are speaking out about the need to embrace diversity, counter white nationalism and stand firm in defense of civil rights for all.  We are convinced that we are the vast majority of Americans.  And we are tired of making the case.

What if we didn't need to convince our elected officials of why they needed to stand up for all of us- what if they already got it, and were already there with us?  State by state, district by district, we would like to get beyond the tiresome business of asking politicians to take positions on Confederate statues.  We're tired of watching state legislatures pander to bigots by banning transgender students' use of bathrooms, or banning Mexican-American studies.  Did you know the Virginia state legislature even tried to ban high schools from teaching Toni Morrison's Beloved?  We pay taxes.  Let's get these extremists out and get some people in who actually want to work for us.

We know the odds are against us.  Our candidates don't have the money, the connections, the big-name party endorsements that their challengers have.  So they need us.

We are starting in Virginia because we believe this year's state elections will be a bellweather for the nation.  We need to prove that when we turn up, our candidates can win.

We're focusing on six outstanding individuals running for state legislature in Virginia.  They have all made public commitments stand up for the principles of the Diversity Declaration, and are matching their actions to their words.  They are Hala Ayala, John Bell, Jennifer Carroll Foy, Elizabeth Guzman, Danica Roem and Kathy Tran.  They are experienced.  They are highly qualified.  They care about the issues that affect most Virginians' daily lives.  And they will be the base for a different kind of network in state politics, one that opens doors for more and more people outside the 'old boys' network in future.

We believe there are many more Diversity Champions out there, but let's prove our point with these six.  Help us help them win their seats, and begin a movement in state legislatures across the country.  Our events page will tell you more about opportunities to get involved.  Any small action you can take will make a difference.  And just think how good you will feel about winning back some of these seats in November!

Virginia on Our Minds

Outraged by the news this week?  We are, too- it felt like white nationalist week at the White House.  But don't just get mad- get active.  Time to end the white male landed gentry's control over public policy, and we are focused on the place where it all started:  Virginia.  

Virginia has a statewide election this year, on November 7.  We want to make sure that we turn state government every shape, size and color and elect candidates that represent an increasingly diverse state population, and that stand up for inclusive public policy that is good for everyone.

Several great candidates have endorsed the Diversity Declaration.  They will work for all of us.  So let's go to work for them!

Hala Ayala is our candidate for District 51, in Prince William county.  Hala is a wonderful part-Latino, part Middle Eastern single mom running against an ultra-conservative opponent who would roll back the clock on women's rights.  Hala is a great champion for women's rights, for immigrants and for working families.  You can read more about Hala and the great reasons to support her here!

Jennifer Foy is our District 2 candidate, a district which bridges Prince William and Stafford Counties.  Jennifer is used to breaking down barriers- she was one of the first women cadets at VMI!  A public defender with a firm commitment to equality for all, Jennifer is walking the walk when it comes to inclusion in her own campaign team, drawing on the terrific team at Inclusv.  Check out Jennifer's impressive bio here.

Danica Roem is our District 13 candidate, and we know she can turn this Prince William/Manassas Park district blue!  A former journalist, Danica is running against a notorious conservative, Bob Marshall.  Danica is a champion for equality of every kind, including economic equality - making sure all Virginians have fair wages and adequate health care.  Check out her fabulous endorsement from Human Rights Campaign here!  
 

Kathy Tran is our District 42 candidate, and she has every reason to be a champion for civil rights, and particularly immigrants' rights as a daughter of refugees. She has pledged to fight gerrymandering and other voter suppression tactics, to make sure every Virginian's vote counts.  Find out about her positions here.

Virginia is our immediate focus, but we aim to engage and elect more diversity champions at every level of government, in every state.  We are an all-volunteer organization, and we will need lots more help in Virginia and beyond.  Follow us on Facebook for regular updates about candidates and on and actions that affect voting and civil rights.

Elections in Virginia:  Who Stands for All of Us?

Tomorrow, June 13, is Virginia's primary election.  While Diversity Matters does not provide candidate endorsements, we do track candidate statements and records, and will be sharing our assessments with you.  Today we focus on the primary candidates for Governor and Lieutenant-Governor.  

While we are non-partisan, there is a stark divide between the statements and actions of the Democratic and Republican candidates with respect to some very important recent events, including the neo-Nazi actions to protect Confederate statues in Charlottesville, and the anti-Muslim demonstrations (and counter-demonstrations) this past weekend.  Basically, Dems have staked out all the high ground on these issues.  Every one of the Democratic candidates has a stated policy position on civil rights; none of the Republicans do.  Republican candidates, sadly, are either openly embracing white nationalism, or trying hard not to get in the way of rising intolerance, at least for the primaries.  Perhaps the winners will espouse more tolerant views going into next year's general election, but let's not forget their silence around these recent events.

We're tracking statements by all the candidates on what they will do (or have done) to promote diversity and inclusion among their own staff and business partners, what they think the state government can do, and how they are responding to recent acts of hate speech in the state.

The Democrats:

Overall the Democratic candidates have stepped up to own the space when it comes to inclusion.  We reached out to both the gubernatorial candidates via social media, and Tom Periello replied to us.  Here is what he said:

"Virginia is proud of its diversity and I will fight to keep Virginia inclusive and undivided."  His "Inclusive Virginia" coalition engages more than 30 immigrant minority community organizations.  He hasn't been shy about taking a stand for immigrants and communities of color; his platform proudly notes that he joined protesters at Dulles airport when the original travel ban was issued in January 2017, and states he "will ensure Virginia is a firewall against Donald Trump’s hateful and bigoted agenda by championing anti-discrimination protections and commonsense policies, and taking any and every legal means to combat orders like the travel ban."

Although we heard nothing from Ralph Northram, his official platform contains a number of statements on specific policies he would support that would promote inclusion, including ending discrimination in criminal sentencing and in housing.  He opposes the travel ban.  He was cautious in his reaction to the Charlottesville protests, saying that local communities needed to make their own decisions about Confederate symbols.

As for the Lieutenant Governor candidates, Gene Rossi replied to us and was willing to get specific about our call to ensure that Virginia state government ensures diversity among its own staff and business partners.  He stated that he would insist on anti-discrimination practices in hiring and said he would "encourage and persuade companies that diversity is simply good business!"  We also note that of the Lt. Gov. candidates, Rossi's feed was the only one that mentioned his participation in LGBTI rights events this past weekend.

We didn't hear from Justin Fairfax or Susan Platt. Both candidates made strong statements about taking down the Confederate monuments and symbols.  Fairfax' statement was more detailed and personal, with specific commitments to the African American community:  "At the same time that we rightfully remove from our public square the indefensible and psychologically harmful physical monuments celebrating slavery, the Confederacy, and Jim Crow, we also must do the urgent, difficult, and serious policy work of removing the present-day vestiges of the same, including dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, closing the racial wealth and health gap . . . . increasing diversity among our judges, prosecutors, and public defenders, and continuing the fight against racial gerrymandering and voter suppression."

The Republicans:

For Governor:  Ed Gillespie has avoided engaging his rivals and taking a clear position on controversial issues such as the confederate memorials (like Northram, he said it should be a local decision).  He did reply to a Washington Post article this past weekend that accused him of taking support from an anti-Muslim activist, stating that he "does not condone hatred or discrimination under any circumstance or in any form." However, we make note that when it comes to women's rights, he has been endorsed by the National Right to Life committee.

Frank Wagner is the man in the middle.  A Washington Post article on the candidate positions on LGBTI rights noted Wagner's support for anti-discrimination measures in housing and employment.  He made a stop in the weekend campaign events at the Philippine cultural center to cultivate Asian-American voters.  He opposed removing the Confederate statue in Charlottesville, but refrained from making a strong statement, simply calling it 'political correctness run amok.'

Corey Stewart is the openly intolerant white nationalist.  His response to the spate of hate crimes suggest an aggressive anti-diversity agenda.  He fanned the flames of the Charlottesville protests, showing up to address the white nationalists and posting numerous provocative statements on social media intended to stir up a white nationalist base (i.e. "I will protect historical monuments from destruction and keep Virginia heritage intact.")  He supports the travel ban and has made 'cracking down' on illegal immigration an official plank of his policy platform.

And the Lieutenant Governor candidates on the Republican side:  Bryce Reeves was called out by the Washington Post for his openly anti-gay stance and rhetoric, contrasted with Jill Vogel, who has affirmed support for LGBTI rights.  However, Vogel opposes women's access to legal abortion.  Neither candidate seems to have any statements of support from Latino or African-American communities, nor is there much evidence of outreach to these constituencies, but Reeves has made some efforts to engage Asian-Americans.

Moving on to the general election for Virginia's state legislature:  Keep following us, as once the primaries are behind us we'll start taking a closer look at state legislative races and candidates for the general election this November.

We are a non-partisan initiative and will track Democratic, Republican and third party or independent candidates.

Congressional Diversity Champions

Prior to the Comey debacle and ensuing response (or lack there of) from Congress (more to come in a future post), there had been some bright spots in Congressional action on our issues recently so we do have some reasons to cheer this week, and also plans to remain vigilant about attempted rollbacks to historic protections for marginalized groups.

Let's review some of the highlights from last week.

Trump's nominee for Army Secretary, Mark Green, succumbed to a prolonged campaign by LGBTI rights groups to point out his alarming record as a Tennessee state senator.  Also, 241 members of Congress introduced the Equality Act.  You can read all about that elsewhere so let's get to what you may not have heard about.

Senator Ben Cardin (MD) has stepped up as a terrific champion for diversity in government, in two key ways:

  1. He has introduced the National Security Diversity and Inclusion Workforce Act of 2017.  Why is this important?  Senator Cardin stated that to "put our country on an even stronger footing, we should capitalize on what makes the United States unique and draw from the range of perspectives that represent the vast diversity of the American people."
  2. He and Senator Robert Menendez (NJ) used their roles on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee to ask Secretary of State Rex Tillerson the following questions during his confirmation hearing:

Senator Cardin Question for the Record:

The Department of State Authorities Act of Fiscal Year 2017, Public Law No: 114-323, requires the Secretary to report on the progress the Department of State is making to recruit and retain highly qualified diverse candidates to the Foreign Service and Civil Service. If confirmed, what would your strategy be to diversify our State Department workforce and implement the letter of the law in creating effective mechanisms to recruit and retain diverse candidates?

(Answer:  Throughout my more than four decades in business, I have worked hard to build an inclusive and diverse workforce. I will work to ensure the Department reflects the great diversity of America.)

Senator Menendez Question for the record:

As one of the most diverse countries in the world, the U.S. possesses unparalleled foreign policy strength - its diverse citizenry - with its linguistic, socio-cultural, experiential, diaspora connections, and other strengths. Unfortunately, many racial and ethnic groups have been historically underrepresented in the State Department. The most recent numbers available demonstrate Hispanic and Asian representation within the Department of State's workforce are at 6 percent each; and although African Americans represent 15 percent of the total State Department workforce, they only represent 6 percent of the Foreign Service.

Native Americans are virtually non-existent among our Foreign Service agencies workforce. Many of these racial and ethnic groups remain stagnated in low and mid-career positions. This curtails their opportunities for career advancement towards senior level positions, further limiting racial and ethnic diversity among the agency's top ranks. What steps will you be taking to cultivate diversity among the State Department's Foreign Service and more broadly, and in particular among its senior and mid-level leadership?

(Answer:  Over the years the Department of State has made numerous efforts to modify its intake of junior officers to create a more diverse workforce. At the same time, the application process has remained competitive, attracting the best and the brightest candidates. Balancing these two objectives diversity and competitiveness - will always be a challenge. If confirmed I will seek creative ways to strike the right balance between diversity and competitiveness, while also ensuring that promotion through the ranks is purely merit-based.)

Senator Cardin, Senator Menendez, and others also support principles of diverse hiring and staffing among their own staff through the Senate Democratic Diversity Initiative.  Unfortunately, only one side of the aisle is openly embracing these principles.

Why is this important?  Our lawmakers need to be informed by staffers with a range of perspectives and experiences, reflective of the range of perspectives and experiences of their constituents, and when it comes to foreign policy, by those whose communities are connected to and affected by our actions.

Staffers are also important because you can't build a diverse bench without creating pathways into public policy for all of us.  We will be sharing more in the coming weeks about how our supporters can get involved in tracking and ensuring that more of our legislators embrace these principles in their own hiring and business practices.

While the activities of the last few days have eclipsed some lawmakers' efforts to bring attention to these important issues, their work still needs to be highlighted. Watch for our next post to focus on some of the challenges to making policies and politics more inclusive.

AHCA Narrowly Passes in the House and is Bad News for Most Americans

Congress just voted for a bill that is not just bad policy, it negatively and disproportionately impacts women and the poor. The legislation made it through the House with a narrow majority even as several representatives who switched from no to yes confirmed they had not read the text in its entirety. This bill is not only a clear assault on access to critical healthcare needs, it's an affront to the values the US espouses to - integrity, common interest, and opportunity. 

While the legislation made it through the House there is still time to influence our senators. Call your senators and let them know their constituents don't support this bill. Remind them they serve the interests of the people who live in their state, and you (we) deserve better. Don't let your representatives off the hook. Give them a call, send them an email, and visit their offices. They were not elected to make their constituents worse off - they MUST do better.

Finally, talk to your friends and family. Make a plan and organize - this is the only way to make sure elected officials are accountable to their constituents. Make sure they hear from you!

Diversity at the 100 Day Mark

The media focus this week has been on what Trump has, and hasn't, accomplished in his first 100 days in office.  We are taking this moment to also take stock in what the rest of us have accomplished.  Importantly, Diversity Matters will now look ahead.  Our friends and supporters will hear more from us in the coming days about new strategies, and a new scorecard to ensure our elected representatives do more to promote inclusion in politics and policy.  Sign up for our list to find out more!

The record on Trump at 100 days:  We won't waste more ink on the cabinet and subcabinet appointments to date.  Suffice it to say the appointees will shut out, rather than bring in, a diversity of perspectives and experiences.  As for policies, we highlight just two:  the travel ban on individuals from several Muslim-majority countries, and the unleashing of homeland security agents to round up and deport illegal immigrants, including Dreamers.  Together these tell a story of the Trump administration's commitment to a war on diversity, their fear of America's multicultural reality, and their rejection of diversity as a fundamentally American idea and strength.  We've highlighted some recent articles on the ongoing appeals to racism our Facebook page and will continue to share these resources.

The record on the opposition in the first 100 days:  mixed.  Per our earlier posts, we have not only been tracking the Administration, but also the Democratic National Committee.  Our goal is to ensure that they are seeking and supporting diverse candidates around the country- and that the candidates themselves are committed to inclusion.  In the past 100 days, the DNC elected new leadership and has been trying to heal the Sanders/Clinton rift in the party.  Yet the party struggles with continuing tensions on whether it is talking to Trump voters, or to the rest of us, especially in its economic message.  Do we really need different economic justice messages for white coal miners than for Latino health care workers? Going forward we'll be looking for Democratic candidates to stop struggling and stand on the common ground- like the proposed $15 minimum wage that would raise the pay of over 40 million workers- and since low wage workers are disproportionately female, African-American or Latino, this is a policy that lifts everyone's boat.

Finally, the record for the rest of us at 100 days is inspiring. So many actions have brought so many different groups together. One great example: in March 2017 the ACLU launched the People Power Project.  Over 133,000 people have volunteered to put pressure on elected officials and local law enforcement officials to urge adoption of the ‘Freedom Cities’ nine ‘model’ state and local law enforcement policies.  The nine policies expand upon the Sanctuary city concept, providing local law enforcement guidelines for our cities, towns and counties to protect Muslims, immigrants and refugees from some of the worst abuses of the Trump administration.  At Diversity Matters, we have been talking to a number of other exciting new emerging grassroots resistance initiatives, including Indivisible (national and locals) and Rise Stronger, as well as getting back in touch with community activists at the People's Action/ Rise Up conference.

In just 100 days, we see plenty of change in our country.  But it's still our country, and we look forward to working with old friends and new ones to make it better.  We're keeping firmly in mind that many more people voted against Trump than for him, and an even greater number of eligible voters didn't vote at all this year.  We believe the majority of Americans respect one another, value each other's differences, and believe an inclusive society is a better one for all of us.  Keep following us for opportunities to get active with us in the coming days.