The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies has released six detailed reports (jointcenter.org) on the troubling lack of racial diversity among the 167 top staff in the Washington, D.C. offices of six congressional delegations – Delaware, Maryland, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia.
Of the 12 U.S. Senators in the six states, none had an African-American top staffer despite representing significant Black populations.
In fact, the reports note that the only top staffer of color for any of the senators was a Latino top staffer for Mississippi GOP Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith.
The lack of diversity in Tennessee was even more glaring with none of the 28 top staffers working for the U.S. House and U.S. Senate Members being people of color despite people of color making up 25 percent of the state’s population, The Joint Center noted in a news release.
“These numbers are alarming but there is no better time than right now to change the trajectory of diversity among top staff and mid-level staff,” said Spencer Overton, President of the Joint Center.
“In the coming months, hundreds of new staffers will be hired by new Members, new Chairs of U.S. House committees and other Members,” Overton said.
“The 116th Congress will be the most diverse in the nation’s history and it’s imperative that the diversity among senior and mid-level staff reflect the diversity of America,” said Don Bell, the director of the Black Talent Initiative at the Joint Center.
“Any individual seeking to hold a leadership position in the 116th Congress must be committed to taking immediate and decisive action that ensures that Congress is truly representative of the people it serves,” Bell said.
Other key statistics from the reports include:
In Virginia, less than 15 percent of the top staffers are people of color even though 36.7 percent of the state’s population are people of color. On a positive note, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-3rd District) and Rep. Donald McEachin (D-4th District), both African-American, had 50 percent and 67 percentrespectively Non-White Top Staff.
Of the 13 elected Members of the Virginia delegation, just four have at least one top staffer of color. On a positive note, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-3rd District) and Rep. Donald McEachin (D-4th District), both African-Americans, had 50 percent and 67 percent respectively Non-White Top Staff.
African-Americans accounted for 37 percent of the Democratic Party’s voters in Virginia in 2016, but they accounted for none of the top staff of Virginia’s two Democratic U.S. Senators, 13 percent of Senator Warner’s mid-level staffers, and none of Senator Kaine’s mid-level staffers.
In Tennessee, Representative Steve Cohen (TN-9) has no top staff of color but represents a district that is 75.7 percent people of color and, in 2016, African-Americans accounted for 82 percent of Democratic turnout in his district.
In Pennsylvania, less than 10 percent of the top staffers are people of color even though 23 percent of the state’s population are people of color.
In Maryland, people of color make up almost half of the state’s population but less than 25 percent of the top staff of House and Senate members.
In Mississippi, only 18.7 percent of top staff are people of color despite making up 42.5 percent of the state’s population.
In Delaware, people of color account for over a third of Delaware’s population (36.4 percent), but just 20 percent of the top staffers.
The reports examined the racial diversity of staff directors of full committees as well as personal office chiefs of staff, legislative directors, and communications directors.
By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Correspondent