By Olivia Haveron
Joe Biden’s Presidency has finally begun. And a new presidency means the ushering in of a new administration. However, Biden’s administration is widely different than any cohort of the entire history of the United States. If every member of Joe Biden’s Cabinet is confirmed -- including vice president, 15 executive departments, and eight other positions -- his administration will be the most racially and gender diverse ever.
Who is a part of this distinct and historic cabinet? I believe that, to start off, it is imperative to mention how half of the newly-elected President’s nominees are women, which is the most ever nominated for a presidential Cabinet. In addition, 50% of his Cabinet nominees are people of color. The previous record for diversity within the Cabinet was 42% under Barack Obama.
Kamala Harris has officially kicked off both of these boxes as a first becoming the first Black and South Asian person -- regardless of gender -- and the first woman to ever hold the position. She has held many firsts within her political career thus far. However, her role as VP reigns supreme for the sole reason that this has never been achieved before, a woman as VP. Many little girls can look up to her and see that their gender cannot stop them from achieving their goals, no matter how big they might be.
The night Biden was announced President-elect Harris stated: “Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities, and to the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not, simply because they've never seen it before. But know that we will applaud you every step of the way.” While she is the first in the position, she emphasizes that she will not be the last. This is especially monumental for younger girls of color who are just starting to see a much more diverse political spectrum.
Including Harris, the administration will include six African Americans, four Hispanics, three Asian Americans, and one Native American. Biden’s choice to make his Cabinet so diverse stems from his pledge to reflect the nation’s demographics -- and according to CNN, he is fairly close to doing so. For example, the nation itself is 61% while Biden’s Cabinet is 50%; in terms of the Hispanic and Black population, the ratio is 18/15% and 12/19% respectively. In comparison, Trump’s administration is only 16% people of color.
This increase in diversity comes at a time where race relations have almost taken drastic steps backwards as mass protests have erupted due to the police killings of Black people such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many more, as well as the massive health disparities exposed by COVID-19. A 2019 study by the Pew Research found that 56% of Americans believed that Trump made race relations worse in the US.
In addition to Harris, Biden has nominated Rep. Deb Haaland to lead the Department of the Interior. She is the first Native American Cabinet Member to ever exist. Her position is not only responsible for managing the nation’s public lands, but also honoring its treaties with Indigenous people within America whose lands were taken from them. The position is also responsible to the country’s 574 federally recognized Indian Tribes and Alaska Native villages. Her nomination is a huge win for tribal governments and environmental groups as the position oversees one-fifth of all of the land in the US as well as 1.7 billion acres of the coasts. Having someone who is Native American take over these roles allows for more protection of these tribes because she is not an outsider taking control of these tribes.
But what does this actually mean for a country that seems so divided? Biden’s administration will “be expected to enact policies that lead to substantive change for communities of color.” Having a Cabinet that is this diverse and more aligned with what America looks like will give a broader perspective on decisions that will be made that impact all communities rather than a smaller basis. It is a step in a right direction towards true racial and gender equality for all.
Never before in America have we seen a cabinet so diverse and reflective of the American people as a whole. In both areas of race and gender, we are seeing that no matter who you are, you can achieve anything. As a young woman, having a woman such as Kamala Harris as the VP seems almost unreal because it has never happened before. But now that never is no more.