The State Department Can Not Go Back to “White, Male, and Yale”

It was announced this week that 30 young Americans from historically underrepresented groups will not be hired for jobs that they were promised within the State Department.

Molly Adams

These 30 individuals, 16 of whom were women, were recipients of the Rangel Graduate Fellowship—a highly competitive two-year scholarship that facilitates internships and professional development activities and pays for graduate school. Applicants were promised an inside track to become a full-fledged U.S. diplomat abroad once they completed their training.

Rangel fellows are overwhelmingly women and people of color. The fellows selected in 2017 were from 15 states and 25 different undergraduate institutions. They spoke over 15 foreign languages, including Turkish, Ngmbaye and Hindi. Their previous work experience spanned the Peace Corps, the Fulbright Program and governmental agencies, among others.

The Trump administration has been widely criticized for an “America first” foreign policy that disregards protecting human rights abroad. In his short time as president, Trump has failed to criticize Russia and Saudi Arabia for human rights violations—and instead, lavishes praise on dictators and extremists. His administration has also put women’s rights around the world at risk through a series of policy moves—including expanding the Global Gag Rule, ending funding for UNFPA and threatening the longevity of programs like Let Girls Learn and the office of Global Women’s Issues.

According to The Foreign Service Journal, women comprise only 35 percent of the overall foreign service in the U.S. Last year, then-National Security Advisor Susan Rice remarked that national security agencies were too “white, male and Yale,” quoting a former Florida Senator. “In the halls of power, in the faces of our national security leaders,” she added, “America is still not fully reflected.”

Programs like the Rangel Graduate Fellowship are vital in providing women with a seat at the table to tackle issues of peace and security—and entire societies benefit from them. The United Nations states that the presence of women peacekeepers help reduce conflict and confrontation, improve access and educational support for local women, provide role models for women in the community, provide a greater sense of security to local populations (including women and children) and broaden the skill set available within a peacekeeping mission. In order to create gender equitable societies that are more peaceful and prosperous, the State Department must continue admitting women into their ranks.

2004 Rangel Fellow Breanna Green was often the only woman in the room at Defense Ministry meetings. Nevertheless, Green stated that the Rangel Fellowship granted her unparalleled opportunities that gave her “the ability to serve my country, the potential to help change lives and the ability to travel and live in different countries, cultures and societies.” She emphasized that she is proud to serve as an example of an African American woman to the rest of the world, and that she hopes to “make a positive impact on the way women of color are viewed not just within the Foreign Service, but by people from other countries as well.”

The Rangel Fellowship served the underserved—and citizens of the U.S. as well as communities around the world reaped the benefits. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has sacrificed a vital opportunity for diverse voices to participate in peacekeeping and protect our national security in favor of maintaining systems of bureaucratic exclusion and oppression.

About

Micaela Brinsley is an Editorial Intern at Ms. and a senior studying Performance Studies at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, she is a feminist theatre artist, activist and writer with a background in labor and tenants' rights. Passionate about social justice, she is an avid conversationalist committed to making the world a more just and inclusive place. You can contact her at mbrinsley [at] msmagazine.com.