NAACP, civil rights groups pressure Biden to appoint more Black officials to senior Cabinet posts

NAACP pressures Biden to appoint more Black officials to senior Cabinet posts.

December 04, 2020, 1:43 PM

The NAACP, along with prominent civil rights organizations, and members of Congress, are placing pressure on President-elect Joe Biden to appoint more Black officials to senior Cabinet positions.

President-elect Biden has named several people of color to key administration roles, including two African American women to positions that are not considered permanent Cabinet-level positions.

PHOTO: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Derrick Johnson talks with reporters during a news conference on Dec. 12, 2019, in Boston.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Derrick Johnson talks with reporters during a news conference on Dec. 12, 2019, in Boston. Johnson announced that the NAACP's 111th national convention it to take place in Boston, in July of 2020.
Steven Senne/AP, FILE

Linda Thomas-Greenfield was selected for the post of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations -- a post that has come and gone from the Cabinet and became a non-Cabinet position again after Ambassador Nikki Haley left the Trump administration in 2018.

President-elect Biden also nominated Princeton University economist Cecilia Rouse as chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, another role that President Trump removed from his current Cabinet setup when he first took office.

But civil rights groups clearly want to see more minorities in the signature Cabinet roles, overseeing agencies with thousands of federal workers, given President-elect Biden's promise to elevate the priorities of minority communities on the campaign trail.

Among the African American contenders for other top Cabinet slots are former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick for Attorney General and former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to lead the Pentagon.

PHOTO: Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson testifies during a special Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental affairs hearing on Sept. 9, 2019 in New York.
Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson testifies during a special Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental affairs hearing on Sept. 9, 2019 in New York.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images, FILE

"We certainly hope to be seeing African Americans in secretary-level positions. Secretary of defense, agriculture, transportation," said Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Karen Bass in an interview on CNN. "You should know that we have been in communication with the administration every week."

Derrick Johnson, however, the president of the NAACP, says he was astounded that the Biden transition team did not invite civil rights organization to be part of the process on the selection of Cabinet appointments.

"If you look at the transition team, there is not a single civil rights organization engaged on any of the review committees," said Johnson. "There was no inclusion of the civil rights community or racial justice advocates to be a part of the table setting how this administration will prioritize the four of his announced pillars."

The Biden transition says the incoming administration is in regular contact with members of the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss planning, including receiving recommendations for potential nominees and has engaged with the National Urban League and the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund.

"The legal defense fund is not a part of any conversation outside of them calling," Johnson said. "So I don't want them to parse the reality of what's taking place."

The NAACP now expects to meet with President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris and members of their transition team on Tuesday.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which met with senior Biden transition team officials on Thursday regarding Cabinet appointments, praised the appointment of the Cuban-born Alejandro Mayorkas to head the Department of Homeland Security, as "a fantastic choice" following the "cruelty and devastation of the Trump administration."

"I've been encouraged by what I'm seeing in the Cabinet picks," said Chuck Rocha, a prominent Latino Democratic operative who worked for Sen. Bernie Sanders' primary campaign. "It sends a strong signal, starting with the highest-ranking Latino at Homeland Security who is literally an immigrant."

PHOTO: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Derrick Johnson, center, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, left, and NAACP Chairman Leon W. Russell, right, look on during a news conference on Dec. 12, 2019, in Boston.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Derrick Johnson, center, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, left, and NAACP Chairman Leon W. Russell, right, look on during a news conference on Dec. 12, 2019, in Boston.
Steven Senne/AP, FILE

Among some members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is a clear sense of frustration at the treatment of New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, amid reports that she was offered the position of interior secretary but turned it down.

"Their job is to push me," said President-elect Biden in an interview with CNN. "My job is to keep my commitment. To make the decisions. And when it's all over people will take a look and say I promise you, you'll see the most diverse cabinet, representative of all folks, Asian Americans, African Americans, Latinos, LGBTQ, across the board. And I think they're all forthcoming in the next month or so."

ABC News' Ben Siegel contributed reporting to this article.

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