The Diversity Declaration

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

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.


Democracy in Color launches new Return of the Majority Roadmap

We think the new Democracy in Color strategy deserved more than just a Facebook post, as we found so much to endorse in this roadmap.  We're summarizing our reactions to the report here for our followers

The Roadmap tackles the critical failure of our political system to put in place representatives who represent the majority of the electorate, at either state or federal levels.  At Diversity Matters, we would parse this finding in two ways:  1) officials are actually elected by a minority, not a majority of voters; and 2) officials only seek to represent views and positions that benefit a small minority, rather than a majority of their constituents.  The Roadmap seeks to tackle the first issue, not the second.  One of the major pillars of the strategy is working with grassroots groups to increase voter turnout, particularly among the very large share of the electorate that does not vote.

We completely agree that we need greater voter turnout, and in particular, to turn out voters who may not participate because of barriers or disenfranchisement.  But we also need to recognize that some voters just don't see the difference between the candidates they are offered.  That's why we believe we also need to see more diverse candidates run for office.  Sometimes those candidates may be independent, or come from third parties.  So they may not immediately help to take away seats from more objectionable representatives.  We'd love to see how Democracy in Color can build this into their Roadmap.

We also are very supportive of the Roadmap's call for accountability by the DNC and other major PACs.  The Roadmap sets forth some basic demands for the PACs, including ensuring their own staff are representative of the racial and ethnic diversity of their constituents.  We would only add that it's important to consider all measures of demographic diversity, including gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability status and push candidates to represent all constituents- a politics not of identity, but of inclusion.

Diversity Matters Partners with Virginia Leadership Institute

“Gaining a Seat at the Political Table”

Diversity Matters is pleased to announce our alliance with Virginia Leadership Institute. VLI was created in 2006 with the specific goal of increasing the number of African-American elected and appointed officials. VLI holds trainings, offers consultations and runs a fellowship program for community leaders, with the goal of diversifying the voices at the political table, resulting in better public policy for us all.

VLI is a natural ally for Diversity Matters. We admire the work that VLI does to engage and recruit non-traditional candidates and encourage them to run for public office. In Virginia, African Americans are 19% of the voting age population, yet are only 8% of all elected officials. Unfortunately, several other states do not fare much better.

VLI’s approach:

Expose more youth and adults to politics – African Americans are often raised to pursue more civic oriented extracurricular activities and steered away from politics.

Inspire and motivate – VLI has observed that many African Americans do not have faith in government or the political system. VLI raises awareness and interest in running for office, serving on commissions and working on campaigns.

Provide more opportunities to network, learn and engage-VLI offers and cosponsors trainings and events.

Provide and encourage campaign experience – VLI encourages those interested in politics to work on campaigns to learn the basics, access community leaders, and learn key issues which affect their community.

VLI’s record to date:

  • 30 VLI affiliated candidates have run for office;
  • 10 were elected; and
  • 10 received commission appointments.
  • Awarded 6 leadership development scholarships

VLI is now expanding to reach potential leaders throughout the mid-Atlantic states. For more information on the Virginia Leadership Institute, please visit or contact

45@50:  A Scorecard 

Diversity Matters is dedicated to holding our representatives accountable for diversity, both in their own personnel practices and in their policy records.  Plenty of ink has been spilled on the initial actions and appointments of our 45th President.  We've just reached the 50-day mark in his tenure – halfway through the first 100 days in office. So here is the brief from Diversity Matters on the record for 45@50. 

The Track Record on Hiring

Of 24 Cabinet-level positions: 

Four are women  

  • Nikki Haley, Ambassador to the United Nations 

  • Elaine Chao, Department of Transportation 

  • Betsy DeVos, Department of Education 

  • Linda McMahon, Small Business Administration 

One is African-American  

  • Ben Carson, Housing and Urban Development 

One is Latino

  • Alexander Acosta, Department of Labor (nominated, not yet confirmed)

Two are Asian-American  

  • Nikki Haley, Ambassador to the United Nations 
  • Elaine Chao, Department of Transportation 

All the rest are white and male. 

Some people may be inclined to suggest, as Sean Spicer has, that diversity isn’t just based on skin color, and generally speaking, we might agree. That said, so far we are looking at the least diverse executive branch since the Reagan years in terms of all areas of diversity (race/ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background). This is a problem. Research shows us groups, in business and government alike, are better at solving problems and developing creative solutions to challenges when diverse voices and experiences are at the table. If the administration's cabinet picks continue along these lines, it is very likely that policy and decision-making processes will be vulnerable to groupthink – a phenomenon where groups are susceptible to faulty decision-making in part because of the homogeneity of its members. The U.S. doesn't need a small, homogeneous group of public officials who don't reflect the vast diversity of experiences of the American people. While the administration would do better by adding different perspectives to their senior level positions, the likelihood of that happening seems slim.  

Stay tuned as we keep an eye on the subcabinet nominees, but the early track record suggests the new President is not looking to reach too far outside his personal comfort zone or professional network.  

Diversity Matters. Stand Up for It.

We believe respect for diversity in all its forms is a core American value. Discrimination against gay and transgender people is a form of sex discrimination and cannot be tolerated.  We are asking our supporters to take action because excluding access in public schools leads to broader exclusion of the transgender community from civic participation.

Read More

DNC Officer Elections Tomorrow: What to Watch For

Starting with this disclaimer: We aren’t endorsing a particular candidate or candidates, and Diversity Matters is not a single-party initiative. However, we are closely watching tomorrow’s DNC Officer Elections to see whether we may have an opportunity to infuse our principles into one of our country’s main political parties.

What we’ll be looking for tomorrow:

The Vice Chair race! This has been far less profiled than the race for Chair, but the VC candidates are for the most part more exciting, energizing and creative than the Chair candidates- and they are talking about fundamental changes to how the DNC recruits and supports candidates. These changes would make the party more accountable to a broader and more diverse base. Here is what some of them are saying:

Latoia Jones: “Let the communities tell us who we are going to run.” She has been raising hard, pragmatic issues about budgets, challenging behind-closed- door decisions about spending (or choosing not to spend) on particular candidates and races.

Michael Blake: “We need to be working for ALL of our communities, ALL of the time.” He has a great organizer’s grasp on what this means, and that small things like when and where you hold meetings can include or exclude whole constituencies.

Liz Jaff: “The movements don’t need to come to us. We need to connect to THEM.” She admitted openly that her ideas for harnessing the energy of the netroots/e-activists might not be well-received by party traditionalists but is willing to push the envelope.

And we noted that Rick Palacio was one of the few candidates to raise an issue we believe is very important: the DNC’s own business partners. He was strong on the need for a more diverse and inclusive vendor base.

And what we’ll be looking for AFTER tomorrow:

CLEAR JOB DESCRIPTIONS. Time for the DNC to get a little more transparent on its expectations for both its Chair and Vice Chair, and its metrics to hold its own party officials accountable. We don’t need a talking head for the Sunday morning cable shows. We need great clarity on strategy for expanding and mobilizing the party’s base. We heard less about this from the Chair candidates than the Vice Chairs, so a statement picking up some of the VC ideas would be a great start.

MONEY MATTERS. Some of the Chair candidates, including Ray Buckley and Jehmu Greene, have spoken about the need for transparency and accountability by the DNC on how it is spending its money. We will want to see budget decisions that show a commitment to spend in ways that encourage and enfranchise people who may not be voting, or facing obstacles to voting. It’s not too late to weigh in directly with your state officers via this web link to let them know you expect future candidates for office to endorse, and be accountable to, the principles in the Diversity Declaration!

DNC Officers' Election & An Update from the Future Forum in Baltimore

This week and next week we’ll be posting updates on the Democratic National Committee Officers’ elections.  Why so much on the DNC?  To be clear, Diversity Matters is not a single-party initiative - we will support any political leader who upholds our core principles – independent, Libertarian, Green Party, maybe even Republican (more on that in a future post).  We believe in pushing for diversity not only in public office, but also within political parties.  This month we are focused on the DNC because we believe we have an immediate opportunity to push a major political party to look beyond the traditional candidates, and be accountable to a more diverse base.  The Officers’ Election will be held on February 25.

On Saturday, February 11, we participated in the DNC Future Forum in Baltimore.  We had a chance to hear from all the candidates and meet with several of them to discuss our principles.  Several candidates invited us to follow up with them, and we will be doing so - stay tuned for updates on our interviews with the candidates!

But in this post, we want to make a few comments on process.  The DNC states on its elections web page that this is “the most open and transparent officer election ever”- and it certainly was a much wilder day than we expected!  With ten candidates for Chair, nine candidates for Vice Chair, and no clear front runner, we entered a packed room at the Baltimore Convention Center and a forum where candidates made no bones about their criticisms of the DNC itself.  Several candidates called for more openness, more transparency, public budgets, public meeting agendas, and clear job descriptions for the Vice Chairs.  No matter who wins, we are very likely to see a transformed DNC.  We encourage everyone to take the DNC at its word and weigh in directly with your state officers via this web link to let them know you expect future candidates for office to endorse, and be accountable to, the principles in the Diversity Declaration!