Few Blacks Serve in Top U.S. Diplomatic Posts

Paul Richter and Tom Hamburger, Los Angeles Times, March 16, 2010

The State Department has fallen short in its efforts to promote African Americans to key frontline diplomatic posts, department officials and diplomats said, despite efforts to increase diversity under two black secretaries of State and a black president.

The State Department has high numbers of black employees overall, and some prominent African Americans in top positions, such as Susan E. Rice, ambassador to the United Nations. But officials said few minorities were climbing to senior frontline posts that wrestle day to day with some of the nation’s most urgent international challenges in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Only one U.S. embassy in Europe is led by a black ambassador, for example.

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State Department data from September–the most recent available–show that of the 32 diplomats then heading embassies and other U.S. missions in Europe, only one, John L. Withers, the ambassador to Albania, was black. However, Withers says he will leave that post later this year.

There were no African Americans among the 10 ambassadors or other chiefs of mission in South and Central Asia, or the 18 in the Near East, and only one among the 17 in East Asia.

However, 11 of the 37 missions in Africa were headed by African Americans.

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Overall, African Americans make up about 16.3% of the State Department’s employees, compared with about 12.8% of the U.S. population. But of Foreign Service officers serving overseas, 6.9% are black.

Latinos, Asians and Native Americans are also under-represented compared with their share of the U.S. population.

The shortfall of black diplomats in top embassy jobs has long troubled African American diplomats.

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