Posted on January 28, 2022

Racial Turmoil Mars Signs of Progress at the U.S. Mint

Alan Rappeport, New York Times, January 21, 2022

The United States Mint celebrated a milestone this month when it announced the first shipment of a new batch of quarters bearing the image of the writer and poet Maya Angelou, the first Black woman to be depicted on the 25-cent coin.

The announcement came weeks after President Biden said he would nominate Ventris C. Gibson to lead the Mint, where, if confirmed, she would serve as its first Black director.

But beneath the public signs of social progress is an agency that has struggled for years with racial tension, with Black employees saying they feel threatened, marginalized and professionally disadvantaged. While instances of racism at the Mint have surfaced in previous years, a new internal report that was reviewed by The New York Times depicts an institution rife with tumult over allegations of racist behavior.

A draft of the report, which was commissioned by the Mint last year and produced by an independent human resources consulting firm, determined that the agency, which is part of the Treasury Department, had a “culture problem” and that staff members felt a “lack of psychological safety.” The report described a workplace with “implicit bias” and “microaggressions” toward people of color.

Participants in a survey conducted by the consulting firm, which included more than 200 staff members, senior managers and executives, said race was a divisive issue at the Mint. Many people at the agency expressed concerns that hiring and promotions for people of color were not handled fairly and said they feared reprisal for making formal complaints.

In interviews with the firm that were quoted in the report, some managers at the Mint appeared dismissive of the racial concerns. Comments made by managers included saying that “we need a model minority” and that “if we put a minority as a U.S. Mint assistant director, the minorities will see we are not racist or sexist.”

The firm, TI Verbatim Consulting, said in the report that its findings “point to potential root causes for the racial divide” at the Mint. The report cited outdated policies, cliques, ambiguous promotion practices and the perception of favoritism. Although some members of the Mint’s work force described a positive environment, others said there had been a noticeable “downward spiral” in recent years amid growing racial tension and as acts of overt discrimination surfaced.

“The work force does not feel that the organization lives up to its values,” said the report, which surveyed a mix of white employees and people of color.

Concerns about a culture of discrimination at the Mint garnered national attention in 2017 after a white worker at a facility in Philadelphia tied a rope used for sealing coin bags into a noose and left it on the workstation of a Black colleague. In a letter in 2020 to Steven Mnuchin, who was the Treasury secretary, staff members at the Mint said that another noose had surfaced and that the N-word had been written across walls in restrooms. They also said a white Mint official had referred to a Black leader at the agency as a “zoo keeper” in an instant message conversation.

The allegations were referred to the Treasury Department’s inspector general, Richard K. Delmar. He found no evidence of racial animus surrounding the Philadelphia noose incident, but his inquiry into other allegations continues. {snip}


The revelations of racial turmoil come as the Mint is at a potential turning point. Mr. Biden has made racial equity a centerpiece of his agenda, and he announced in December that he would nominate Ms. Gibson to be the agency’s director. She is the Mint’s deputy director and has been leading the agency on an acting basis.

Ms. Gibson, who needs to be confirmed by the Senate, has vowed to improve the Mint’s culture. Last month, she led a diversity briefing during a senior managers’ meeting, and she is planning to create new career development programs to help make the promotion process more transparent.