President Obama has actually done a pretty good job as President at hiring a truly diverse staff. From cabinet positions all the way down to interns, he has attempted to build a team that looks like America. Unfortunately, he has less than two months left in office and most of that diversity will be flushed down the toilet. His impending absence reveals the painful truth that the Democratic Party has been using his administration as cover for their own lack of effort, from the top down, at building genuine diversity in our government.
After my piece on this problem was released Tuesday, I was contacted confidentially by a respected staffer of a prominent Democratic U.S. senator. What I learned was as problematic and disgusting as any conversation I've ever had about how our government, particularly the Democratic Party, operates behind the scenes with issues of diversity.
"They are all so phony," the staffer told me. "Every time I hear any of the Democratic senators, including my own boss, talk about diversity, I cringe, because it's all one big lie. That they've been allowed to enjoy this reputation as a party that values diversity, while doing next to nothing of substance to align their actions with their words, is expert-level deception."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
The staffer went on to detail a private network of conversations being held by staff members of color in the U.S. Senate which they half-jokingly call the "Underground Railroad."
"Democrats in the Senate use demographics as their excuse for the fact that they only have one African-American member in their ranks. They'll tell anyone who listens that they wish this wasn't the case and to the untrained ear, it sounds true. It isn't. The Senate looks just the way want it," the staffer told me.
I must admit that I had also bought the lie - hook, line, and sinker - that only two current U.S. Senators out of 100, Cory Booker, a Democrat, and Tim Scott, a Republican, were black because state by state demographics just made it too hard for African-Americans to win statewide elections.
"No, that's not it. Of course demographics are a factor in every election, but the Senate looks the way Senators want it to look. Let me prove it to you."
What I learned next made my jaw drop.
"Do you know how many black Chiefs of Staff exist in the Senate? The whole Senate? One. Out of one hundred chances they had to hire a black chiefs of staff, they hired just one African-American," the staffer said in disgust.
"But hold up, hold up," the staffer continued. "I haven't even given you the punchline yet. Guess who the one black Chief of Staff works for?"
"Who?" I asked - having no idea what the answer was.
"Tim Scott," the staffer replied. "The lone black chief of staff in the entire United States Senate works for South Carolina Republican, Tim Scott. His office may be the most diverse in the entire Senate."
It was like a punch to the gut. It's one thing for the elected officials in one of the most important halls of government in our nation to be just 2% black - that could be blamed on voters or demographics or fundraising, but the fact that only one U.S. Senator has hired a black chief of staff, and that senator is a Republican, is an indefensible choice.
It doesn't stop there.
According to a recent study from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, of the 336 senior staff positions in the U.S. Senate, 0.9% of them are held by African-Americans. That's three people.
This is inexcusable and it has a devastating impact on the positions and priorities taken by senators themselves.
"When Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were shot and killed by police in Minnesota and Louisiana, I practically begged my boss to issue a statement. My request fell on deaf ears," the staffer said,
It's no wonder the Senate has done so little of substance on issues that truly matter to black folk.
The lack of diversity in the U.S. Senate is so severe that it was called "one of the world's whitest workplaces" in a scathing critique authored by The Atlantic's Russell Berman. Berman also highlighted how the online magazine, Diversity Inc., "the nation's worst employer for diversity."
The NBC News4 I-Team in Washington, D.C. actually discovered that Congress isn't even following its own rules and laws on diversity. As Congress attempts to hold tens of thousands of employers feet to the fire on diversity all over the country, they aren't even doing it themselves by tracking and reporting the most basic data on their hiring practices and records for women and people of color.
"Think of how many times diversity was touted by the Democratic Party in this previous presidential election then look at these numbers and tell me if it passes your smell test," said the staffer.
"We're pissed," the staffer said referring to the small but close-knit community that has formed among staffers of color. "Many of the interns and junior staffers of color come from a generation where we really don't suffer in silence. We're here to make a difference and this type of soft bigotry from the Democratic Party needs to be exposed."
This is a scandal that must be immediately and proactively addressed by Democratic Party and the United States Senate. What I know is this - when it comes to winning elections and defeating Donald Trump, these same Democrats who refuse to hire black folk for senior management, will want Beyoncé, Jay Z, Oprah and Chance the Rapper to stand on stage with them. They will appear on the radio with Charlamagne, Steve Harvey and Tom Joyner to drum up black support. They will visit black colleges and hold pep rallies. They will film promo videos featuring black victims of police brutality and racial violence and trot out Mothers of the Movement all across the country, but how much do Senate Democrats truly value black folk if they don't have a single black chief of staff? How much do Senate Democrats honestly and earnestly value African-Americans if less than 1% of their senior staff members are black?
Those questions are rhetorical. The answers are obvious.
Even the NFL and the NBA do better.
Yeah, Donald Trump's a bigot, but Senate Democrats aren't far behind.