Democrats have a long way to go before they can tout their Hill diversity
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Democrats posted a selfie on social media of their summer interns Tuesday night. It was done as a response to Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate MORE’s infamous selfie with his nearly all-white interns. Democratic members of Congress wanted to send a strong message that they have a diverse intern class compared to House Republicans. Democratic social media users of course ate it up. The Democratic Caucus is patting itself on the back. However, Caucus members don’t deserve it. There’s more to the picture than is shown.

First is the fact that they strategically placed all the black interns in the front and white ones in the back. Second is the fact that the majority of the interns of color are currently serving for either members of the Black caucus, Hispanic caucus or are there through the paid internship programs of each respective caucus. Let us also consider explaining that the paid internship programs from each caucus are unique and rare on the Hill. The problem is if the Hispanic or the Black caucus didn’t exist, the interns in the picture would not be so diverse. So the question then becomes, what are the white members of the Democratic caucus doing in terms of diversity given the fact that they comprise the majority of the caucus? Additionally, another important question: is it the responsibility of members of color to diversify the Congressional workforce, or should it be a shared responsibility and commitment of all members of the caucus?

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The House Democratic Caucus comprises of 187 members, meanwhile the Hispanic Caucus has 24 members, the Black Caucus has 49 members, and the Asian Pacific Islander Caucus has 10 key members. Caucus fellowships and internships via their foundations have led to some of the only diversity available in the stuffy air of the halls of Congress. But how do their numbers on staff of color stack up for the entire House of Representatives? Well not so good at all.  According to a study conducted by the National Journal the percent of Latino members of Congress is higher than the percentage of Latino staffers, double to be exact: 6% versus 3%. So while 17% of the country identifies as Latinos, only 3% of the staff is Latino.

It isn’t much better in the upper chamber either. A December study from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies painted grim and embarrassing numbers for Democratic members. The voting base of the party is more diverse than staff numbers of Senate Democrats. Senators who represented states with heavy Latino and Black populations such as California and Texas have little to no staffers of color. And most shocking of all is that there is not a single African-American chief of staff, legislative director, or communications director in the D.C. offices of any Democratic Senator. The only black chief of staff in the upper chamber works for a Republican, Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottBlood cancer patients deserve equal access to the cure Rand Paul: 'We deserve to know' identity of Trump whistleblower Bottom Line MORE. Out of the 20 senate committees, 17 are led by white people, and 0 by a Latino.

Most damning of all is according to the report Senate Republicans have more diversity than Democrats in key positions from a proportional standpoint. 37 percent of Democratic voters identify as people of color, while they only account for 8.1 percent of the top Democratic Senate staff. Meanwhile, 9 percent of Republicans voters identify as people of color and comprise 6.7% of top Republican Senate staff. While both parties have few people of color in top positions, the GOP’s percentage of key staffers of color is closer to their share of their party’s voters who are people of color than those of Democrats.

Democrats have a lot of work to do. Instead of using a party that reminisces the 1950s as a point of reference, it should use its own party values of diversity and inclusion to judge how these efforts hold up. That however takes time, energy, political will and mindfulness that has yet to be seen.


Carlos Vera is an associate at Megaphone Strategies, a progressive PR firm run by women and people of color.  He previously interned in the House of Representatives, the European Parliament, the White House and founded Justice for AU Workers, a labor organization focused on fighting for custodial workers of color. You can reach him at carlmvera@gmail.com or follow him on twitter @carlosangeles25